John Oliver Makes the Case that Taxpayer-funded Stadiums are a Raw Deal

Daniel Banas |

If you're a wealthy owner of a sports arena, you're probably not the biggest HBO fan right now. First there was the fiery and undoubtedly expensive destruction of the fighting pits in Meereen caused by Khaleesi's dragon in Game of Thrones a few weeks ago, and now there's John Oliver taking on taxpayer-funded stadiums on Last Week Tonight. 

Oliver has made a name for himself as a host who's more than willing to take on complex issues that most comedy shows don't have the time or independence from sponsors to cover. While Oliver's occasionally hyperbolic fever-pitch delivery may not be everyone's cup of satirical tea, it's hard to argue with many of the points he makes here regarding the logic of forcing taxpayers to foot the bill for stadiums that make millions for their owners. Some of the more jarring facts include:

  • Nearly half of all NFL teams have threatened to move to the massive Los Angeles market that has been without a team since The Rams left for St. Louis in 1995
  • Detroit approved spending $280 million of taxpayer money on a new arena for the city's beloved Red Wings - a particularly bitter pill, as the approval came six days after the city filed for an unprecedented bankruptcy.
  • Despite calling on taxpayers to pony up hundreds of millions for stadium building, the sports teams get to keep all revenue produced by the stadiums - including naming rights. Yes, that means sports fans don't even see their financial burden eased while they're forced to watch their team play in ridiculously named venues like "Qualcomm Stadium" or "CenturyLink Field" 

There's a lot of fascinating and galling information here, so check it out for yourself - and enjoy the strange sensation of the NFL somehow managing to raise your blood pressure and inspire you to scream at a screen well before the preseason has begun.

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