Professional sports teams should be reveling in their success: rising attendance and revenue, great TV ratings. Instead, you hear talk of contraction in baseball, a lockout exists in the NFL and an NBA team is likely on the move — again.
Since the lunkheads in charge don’t seem interested in solving these problems, I’m going to suggest some solutions.
The richest clubs are tired of supporting the poorest with the revenue-sharing plan, so they’re talking of eliminating the Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays.
I agree that the current revenue-sharing plan isn’t working, but I’d suggest two changes:
1. Those receiving money from the clubs making it should be required to put it back into either the payroll or their minor league development system instead of the owners’ pockets. Two examples from last year: The Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven’t been in the playoffs since Barry Bonds left as a free agent in 1994, made $26 million, while the Oakland A’s, whose managing general partner Lew Wolff is continually bad-mouthing them, made $23 million. Ridiculous.
2. Since a salary cap is out of the question — the players association would never agree to it — Major League Baseball should consider TV revenue in determining revenue-sharing payments. Currently, the New York Yankees fund their payroll — more than four times that of poorer teams — with a TV network, but none of those profits are counted by MLB.
Owners want an additional $1 billion taken off the top for help in building new stadiums, and the players are resisting any substantial reduction in their revenue.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners have recognized that it’s become much more difficult to get public funding for stadiums — and impossible in California. So I think it’s reasonable to give them substantially more money — if they agree to hold it for the specific use of building stadiums and if they agree that a percentage of the sale of franchises should go to retirement funds for players, especially those from earlier eras, who have been virtually ignored, a disgrace to the game.
There should also be a continued drive for shared stadiums. The 49ers’ planned stadium in Santa Clara needs another tenant, but Oakland politicians are foolishly talking about building a new stadium for the Raiders. Talk about throwing good money after bad.
As the Maloofs plan to move the Kings to Anaheim for a better facility, Sacramento fans know how earlier Kings fans felt. The franchise started in Rochester, N.Y., when it was called the Royals, then moved to Kansas City/Cincinnati, where it split games, before settling in Sacramento for 17 seasons.
But this is the pattern for the NBA. Most recently, the Seattle team moved to Oklahoma City, where it has had an underwhelming reaction. Seattle, Kansas City and Cincinnati all have teams in both baseball and the NFL. The problem is with the NBA, not individual cities.
Chris Cohan upgraded Oracle Arena — and received a huge capital gains profit when he sold. In the NHL, the Sharks worked with San Jose to build HP Pavilion. NBA teams should be looking at building their own facility, which can be used for many nonsports events.
There are the solutions. Go for it.