Oh, wait. Nope! They’re just greedy.
The issue of rent and mortgage freezes during the pandemic to help combat rampant unemployment is one of the bigger ones DURING THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES. While certainly not nearly enough protections have been put in place for the middle and lower classes (and far too many for the wealthy), the Oakland A’s are apparently trying to do this in reverse.
A couple of days ago, the Oakland Alameda Coliseum Authority, the city- and county-run organization that serves as the A’s landlord, announced that the team hadn’t made its annual $1.2 million rent payment, due on the first of April, for the Coliseum. The A’s simply stated that they “have not been able to generate any revenue” and “have no ability to pay.”
As always, it’s important to note that the A’s owner, John J. Fisher, is worth $2 billion. Keep in mind that’s 0.06% when you think about this guy deciding to stiff Oakland and Alameda county in a time where it needs every dollar it can get to protect its citizens from the effects of the pandemic. For comparison’s sake, .06% of yours and my worth is a couple of of 30-racks of Old Milwaukee.
A’s attorney D’Lorna Ellis cited a “force majeure” clause in the team’s lease agreement that relieves either side of obligations when there is an extraordinary event. A pandemic is certainly that, but it could also be argued that the pandemic affects a lot more than just the A’s ability to play baseball. Depriving the county and city of money the A’s ownership could easily afford in a time of shared crisis is just heartless.
The idea that the A’s have had no revenue is shaky at best. They have offered their ticket holders the standard credit-or-refund options for tickets already purchased, and it strains credulity to believe that every single ticket-holder has asked for a refund. There are still various sponsorships and ads that haven’t been refunded yet as well. On the very edge of the other side, the A’s are still paying their full-time employees through May. But after that, they have not announced what they will do.
The A’s also tried to claim that the Coliseum’s possible use as an emergency “surge site” for overwhelmed hospitals in the county would make it unusable for the team, and thus they shouldn’t have to pay rent. One problem: the Coliseum hasn’t been used yet for that purpose. Nor have the A’s needed it, because, again, there’s been no baseball.
If baseball were to return, and the A’s needed the Coliseum again, even for games behind closed doors, it would only be with the country in a shape where “surge sites” were no longer necessary (though no guarantees there). With California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, seemingly open to sports in the state resuming in June, it seems clear that officials are not anticipating a need to use the Coliseum as a surge site.
This adds just more problems with the A’s and the Coliseum, the later of which has been literally shitty for a while. How this will affect the A’s pursuit of a new stadium at the Howard Terminal isn’t clear, though it’s hard to see how it would help. That pursuit is already facing some obstacles. Funny how the flooding toilet water didn’t cause the A’s to stop paying rent, as it might for you and me, but this does.