The Calgary Flames, like so many sports franchises, want Canadian taxpayers to foot the bill for a new stadium complex that would cost about $890 million to build. This morning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman went on Calgary Eyeopener to discuss the Flames’ proposal, and he didn’t enjoy getting pushed around a bit by host David Gray.
Aside from successfully getting under Bettman’s skin, Gray does a fantastic job of surfacing the mound of bullshit that all publicly financed stadiums are built on. After patiently listening to Bettman explain how the citizens of Calgary need to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars in order to maintain the Flames’ “competitiveness,” Gray asks Bettman point-blank if the Flames are a profitable franchise. Bettman’s response:
That’s for you to ask the Flames... I don’t comment on a club’s economics, and frankly the question’s irrelevant to the discussion we’re having.
And there’s the misdirection that keeps pro sports so crooked. Owner-friendly CBA proposals, hard salary caps, stadiums built with public money—they’re all buttressed by people like Bettman casually dismissing the idea that pro franchises should have to open their books before asking for handouts. It’s a nice scam, if you can swing it.