MONTREAL — The start was terrible.
Posted Jan 23, 2012 by Tom Jackson
Updated Jan 23, 2012 at 06:55 PM
... if it weren’t downright onerous (from state Sen. Mike Fasano’s Tallahassee office):
Senator Mike Fasano’s Professional Sports Blackout Ban Was Adopted in the Senate Community Affairs Committee Today
State Senator Mike Fasano announces that his Senate Bill 836, which will fine professional sports teams that black out the broadcast of games played in publicly funded stadiums, was amended onto Senator Mike Bennett’s Senate Bill 816. The bill was heard in the Senate Community Affairs Committee today. Senator Bennett’s bill requires a professional sports facility, which has benefited from public dollars, to operate a homeless shelter to serve the community in which he stadium is located.
“I thank Senator Bennett for his desire to assist the fans of professional sports by offering to amend his bill with the blackout ban language,” Senator Fasano states. “With the unanimous support of the committee I look forward to this good bill moving forward.”
Senator Fasano’s legislation requires that the fine paid by the professional sports teams, if they fail to meet the terms of the legislation, is to be utilized by a county’s sports authority to purchase tickets to a future game for foster children and their foster families, nonprofit youth organizations, and the United Service Organization, Inc. (which will provide the tickets to service members on leave from active duty in a combat zone and their families).
Look, almost nobody outside the immediate families of NFL owners imagines local TV blackouts are a good idea. But the senators’ populist, pandering bill is wrong on so many levels it’s breathtaking.
For openers, Fasano and Bennett would coerce Florida’s NFL teams into the awkward position of violating state statute or their league agreement. After all, the 72-hour sellout-or-blackout rule belongs to the NFL, and the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Jaguars are obliged to follow it.
Moreover, while arguably counterproductive—how would you like to be an advertiser cut out of the Tampa Bay market eight prime-time Sundays every fall?—is not new. All the tax-collecting entities involved with the construction and maintenance of the various stadia knew precisely what they were getting into—as did voters who marched to the polls to approve the necessary tax-hikes—so attempting to change the rules after the fact plainly amounts to nothing but a foot-stamping, whiny tantrum.
But the worst part of this bad, awful, terrible, no good legislation is its righteous attempt to robe itself in public benefit. Homeless shelters? Tickets set aside for designated groups? Talk about right-wing social engineering. Astonishing.
The veneer looks shiny and noble, and lord knows we’d love to smack the Glazers for violating the pact between owners and fans, overseeing the decline of the Bucs even as the team’s profitability has soared. But the Legislature needs to keep its nose out of arrangements made by local governments to lure private-sector industry. What’s next? If Raymond James doesn’t meet its advertised hiring ambitions at its Wiregrass Ranch campus—which is pretty much the point of the deal made by Pasco County commissioners—shall we expect Tallahassee to wade in with a demand that the financial services giant issue iTunes gift cards or certificates for sneakers or movie tickets to Pasco residents earning below a certain income? Set up a soup kitchen? Fund a cell-phone giveaway?
It’s bad enough to think about the NFL blowback if this package of pandering nonsense becomes law: Hey, Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville—you best think again about those Super Bowl committees y’all are organizing ... turns out the sun shines just as bright from New Orleans to Palo Alto. And there are plenty of snowbelt domes to choose from, too. Heck, we’re even crazy enough to schedule Super Sunday in the New Jersey Meadowlands. But come to Florida after your Legislature tries to mess in our partnerships? There’ll be downhill skiing in Key West before you even sniff another championship game.
But imagine you’re another private sector industry interested in Florida opportunities. If fired, the cannon Fasano and Bennett are loading won’t be just a shot across the NFL’s bow. It’ll be a warning salvo to any CEO that gets the wrong idea about moving to, or expanding in, the Sunshine State expecting a business-friendly atmosphere and respect for contracts.