Kavitha Davidson writes about the NFL holding San Diego hostage as they try to extort a football stadium out of the city. The threat, of course, is Los Angeles.

The fight over a new team in Los Angeles shows that teams are incredibly calculated in their strategy of holding their existing cities hostage. The Chargers, Oakland Raiders, and St. Louis Rams are all competing for the chance to move to Los Angeles, or at least publicly threatening to do so to see just how much they can squeeze out of their local governments. And they’re getting a boost from their compadres at other organizations, with various owners stating that football in Los Angeles is a foregone conclusion. “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ now, but ‘when,’ ” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay told the San Francisco Chronicle. San Francisco 49ers chief executive Jed York explained that the franchises’ current cities haven’t made enough of an offer to keep their teams in town. “I think L.A. is much further along than any of the home markets at this point,” he said.

Chargers-OilersThe quirky thing here is that all three teams used to play in Los Angeles, though the Chargers for only one season. The particularly funny thing about the Chargers were the leading voice to keep an NFL team out of Los Angeles the last expansion. They wanted Southern California to themselves. Houston, instead of LA, got the team. There’s a good chance if Houston hadn’t gotten the team they would simply be threatening to move the programs to Houston instead of Los Angeles, but Houston is a bit less threatening in that regard.

What is so ridiculous about this is that the NFL is acting like there is some market force at play here. As though it is some natural state of affair that there be 32 football teams. The threat of Los Angeles only exists because they won’t expand. There really isn’t much doubt that St Louis, Oakland, and San Diego have the fan base to support a team. There’s really no reason that they can’t all have a team, along with Los Angeles and maybe San Antonio, and everybody’s happy. Except, of course, not everybody’s happy, because the billionaires want a new stadium, and would prefer not split the money more ways than they have to (this is where the NFL’s pinko-commie model is a hindrance).

The population has grown, but the number of NFL teams haven’t. There are fewer teams per-capita than there have been since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. As of a few years ago, when I had a handy spreadsheet, there were between 7-10 cities (depending on things like whether you count San Jose as a new market) that are larger than the five smallest existing markets. Plus, New York could hold a new team (imagine a New York team that actually played in New York!). They could expand to as many as 40 teams and still not be overextended. Expanding by two, or even four, doesn’t strike me as reaching too hard. You wouldn’t even have to go to London.

I’ve actually come around to the notion that it might actually be something less than ridiculous that cities are footing the bill for stadiums for billionaires. I think there is a logic to it, just as there can be a logic to paying off any extortionist. The problem is the extortionist, and that congress let’s them do this and keep their broadcast anti-trust exemption. There is a screw there to be tightened, if they were so inclined.

In other news, the NFL is going to be making the extra point more difficult, by requiring that it be kicked from the 15 yard line. Benjamin Morris of 538 says that it won’t actually be that much harder, while James Brady is citing safety concerns.

Personally, what I don’t like about it is that it removes fakes from the equation, more or less. It basically requires teams to declare whether they will be converting or kicking. Fakes are one of the few interesting things that happen during PAT’s.

What I would personally like to see is a third option. They can kick a PAT from the 15, they can go for a 2-point conversion from the 2-point spot, or they can go for X-points by trying to score from the fifteen. X would need to be determined mathematically, but I’m figuring about four points. It would definitely make things more interesting if a team could score 10 points on a single drive, and we wouldn’t know exactly what they were doing when they line up at the 15.

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17 Responses to NFL Extortion, and Point(s)-After

  1. Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

    the NFL’s pinko-commie model is a hindrance

    Considering that the NFL is the most successful sports league in the world, I’m not sure that I would use the word “hindrance”.

    Also, one man’s extortionist is another man’s shrewd negotiator.

    Work beckons, so I will have a more thorough response later. For now, (playing the violin).

    • trumwill says:

      I’d argue that it’s not hard to be be a skilled card player when you’re holding nothing but great hands and your buddy is the dealer.

      I meant “hindrance” more specifically in terms of getting the League to expand. I have not much problem with it otherwise.

  2. jhanley says:

    My anti-rent seeking amendment would, ideally, prevent that kind of extortion.

    And I don’t think it’s actually wise for cities to give into the extortion. They nearly always get raw deals on these stadia–their actual benefit-cost is almost invariably negative,* and rather than being real economic boosts, they usually just shift consumer spending from other sources.

    *Likely exceptions are the rare arenas like the Staples Center in LA, which has events nearly every day of the year.

    • trumwill says:

      My argument is that the financial loss can be considered an expensive but invaluable form of advertising. Jacksonville is on the map of our collective conscious as a major city and Norfolk isn’t and I think the NFL franchise is a big part of why. How much is that worth?

      • Peter says:

        Then again, Portland has become a trendy up and coming city (“Portlandia”) despite having just an NBA team. Same for San Antonio and Orlando, though of course the latter is sort of a special case. And having an NFL team hasn’t done much for Buffalo.

        • trumwill says:

          Some cities need it more than others. Arguably, a city like Las Vegas needs it very little. Orlando might fall into that category.

          There are also likely diminishing returns for multiple sports. Especially if that one sport is football. San Antonio, Portland, and Orlando all have basketball. Basketball is one of the weaker sisters, but certainly better than nothing. It’s kind of the starter sport. And there are enough established cities without one (San Diego, Pittsburgh, Kansas City…) that it doesn’t quite hurt as much if you don’t have one.

        • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

          FWIW, San Antonio and Orlando both had teams in the WLAF.


          The best example of a city that doesn’t “need” pro basketball is St Louis.

        • Trumwill says:

          Both San Diego and St Louis might switch categories, if they lose their football teams…

          I was aware of the WLAF. San Antonio also had a team in the CFL and hosted the Saints while New Orleans was in repair. There was actually talk of the Saints possibly relocating there permanently. Probably the only recent case of an owner threatening to move a team and mentioning some city other than Los Angeles.

      • Jacksonville is on the map of our collective conscious as a major city

        Other than being the headquarters of CSX, does anybody really think of Jacksonville? It’s not like the team is that good…

      • jhanley says:

        How much is that worth?

        I suspect not much. But here are two views.
        1. Maybe worth while.
        2. Probably not worthwhile.

    • Oscar Gordon says:

      I have no problem with a city building a stadium for sports, as long as the city controls it.

      • trumwill says:

        Colosse does control it’s stadia. Well, a sports authority does, but it’s a government entity. But ownership mostly means that it ends up accumulating debt and periodically needs to be bailed out.

        Staples Center excepted, apparently.

        • Oscar Gordon says:

          Not unusual for a government run facility. I’d be curious as to why. But at least the taxpayers didn’t spend millions for an esteem project that gets handed over to a corporate interest.

    • Likely exceptions are the rare arenas like the Staples Center in LA, which has events nearly every day of the year.

      FWIW, one could argue that a basketball and ice hockey arena can play a role in redeveloping an area because they’re smaller and easier to fit into an area. Plus when combined with good transit access, there isn’t as much of a need for huge parking lots to surround the stadium, which again helps with creating a somewhat lively environment around the stadium. It remains to be seen if that approach of bars, retail, brand new condos can be replicated at a football stadium. While adding the Barclay’s to Brooklyn has helped to make that area somewhat more attractive, the Prudential Centre hasn’t exactly moved the needle much in terms of Newark’s redevelopment. OTOH, the soccer specific stadium built for a MLS team is slowly becoming the centerpiece of a redevelopment scheme for a old industrial area across the river from Newark.

      • Peter says:

        Football-specific stadiums may not do much in terms of neighborhood development because they get very little use given the NFL’s extremely short season.

  3. Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

    the NFL’s pinko-commie model

    Better than the plantation model of the NCAA.

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