A Bad Decade Last Week in Tampa

 

Vladimir Lenin, of Soviet Union infamy, once observed that “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” Both Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Post newsroom experienced this firsthand last week. We’ll save the Washington Post for another day since that is still playing out. What a newsroom that is.

Let’s start with the national pastime. It began when the Florida sports franchise felt compelled to express its moral indignation over the May 24th massacre at Uvalde’s Ross Elementary School. The Rays organization announced a $50,000 grant, not to victims’ families or to improve school safety but to the anti-gun advocacy group, “Everytown for Gun Safety.” They advocate for banning undefined “assault rifles,” opposing state laws that allow teachers and schools to arm themselves to protect children, and getting rid of most concealed carry permit laws, especially reciprocity between states. And much more.

Meanwhile, legislation was winging its way to the desk of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for taxpayers to spend $35 million for a new spring training facility for the Rays along with year-round youth sports in Florida’s Pascoe County.

DeSantis vetoed the bill for two reasons. The New York Post explains:

The Rays, who have edged out the Yankees to win the AL East the past two years, were hoping that DeSantis would sign off on funding for the new spring training complex in Odessa, Florida.

DeSantis this week signed a $109.9 billion budget for the fiscal year starting on July 1 — but killed the funding for the Rays’ facility.

The governor defended his veto of the sports complex at a press briefing Friday.

“I don’t support giving taxpayer dollars to professional sports stadiums,” he said. “Companies are free to engage or not engage with whatever discourse they want, but clearly … it’s inappropriate to subsidize political activism of a private corporation.”

DeSantis’ veto tore the scab off two festering debates. And the Rays followed up with another.

First, woke corporate activism. It culminated last year when Major League Baseball’s Commissioner, Rob Manfred, moved the 2021 “All-Star” game from Atlanta to Denver over Georgia’s new voter integrity law. Instead of resulting in “voter suppression,” as Manfred, Democrats and their woke corporate allies at Georgia-based companies (Delta, Coca-Cola, others) alleged, it increased turnout by non-whites during the May 2022 primary elections. Meanwhile, Denver’s MLB all-star game posted the second-lowest ratings in history. Somehow, Manfred still has his job.

Second, it brought back a 30-plus-year debate over whether taxpayer subsidies of sports stadiums help economic development. Economists at George Mason University in Virginia and Stanford University say no. The Mercatus Center at George Mason in 2015:

A new empirical study for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University finds that there is still little evidence that building stadiums or arenas for professional sports franchises leads to significant economic benefits. Sports-initiated development is unlikely to make a community wealthier, and subsidizing professional sports teams may actually reduce economic growth. If a local government is considering adopting economic growth policies, there are far better candidates than subsidizing professional sports franchises.

Some cities, especially Oakland and St. Louis, continued to pay hefty amounts for debt service for two obsolete football stadiums. How are their NFL football teams doing these days? Oh, wait.

Stadium financing can have political ramifications. We might ask the late Jim Bruner, who, in 1993, was considered a front runner for the GOP nomination for a Phoenix suburban congressional seat the following year. A Maricopa County Commissioner, Bruner was the deciding vote for a quarter-cent sales tax increase to help fund a stadium for the then-new Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team. “Socialized baseball,” one editorial headline screamed. Bruner never went to Congress, but an opponent of the deal, future and now former US Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), was elected and would serve nine terms in Congress.

I’m sure that lesson has not been lost on Gov. DeSantis, among others.

There are cases where stadiums spur economic revitalization. In downtown Washington, the Capital One Center, home of professional ice hockey and basketball teams, arguably rescued and reinvigorated its “Chinatown” district. Some say that would have happened anyway. As for Philadelphia’s conglomeration of stadiums and massive parking lots along I-95 in deep South Philly, not so much. But Philly, a perennially mismanaged and corrupt city, has other problems holding it back.

But the Rays’ other shoe dropped when they hosted a gay “Pride Night,” as many professional sports franchises do. However, the Rays went an extra step by adorning jerseys with gay pride-related logos on their jerseys to be worn during the game that night. Five players declined, citing their faith. From JustTheNews.com:

“It’s just what we believe the lifestyle he’s (Jesus) encouraged us to live for our good, not to withhold,” relief pitcher Jason Adam told the Tampa Bay Times. “But we love these men and women, we care about them and we want them to feel safe and welcome here.”

Other players who joined Adam in not wearing the Pride Night logo on Saturday were Jalen Beeks, Brooks Raley, Jeffrey Springs and Ryan Thompson.

Manager Kevin Cash said Sunday he did not expect his team to be divided in the clubhouse over the episode, according to The Associated Press.

The Rays’ Twitter feed exploded with profanity, hate, and religious bigotry from the Left. Not posting it here. A handful of Tweets expressing support for those five players were generally positive and appreciative. You can look it up. Tampa’s 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox — you know, baseball — was lost in all this. They lost again yesterday, 6-5.

The Rays are a good baseball team, but they have a severe front office problem. This is proving increasingly true at professional franchises in many sports. This is one of those weeks — decades — that I’m glad not to be in charge of state government relations for their franchise. The 20-something marketers and social media mavens who populate corporations and sports franchises need to rethink their feelings of moral superiority. Their inclination — at a price of $35 million — will likely be to double down on their political activism. That is unlikely to end well.

Maybe their ownership will step in and remind staff of a YouGov survey 14 months ago reporting that a third of Americans were watching fewer sports over politics. I doubt that has changed. MLB viewership got off to a very slow start last month.

Teams are free to attract all manner of fans and even express political views, but they shouldn’t expect taxpayers – or their fans – to pay for them. Economist Milton Friedman once said that people vote with their feet. They vote with their eyeballs and dollars, too.

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There are 14 comments.

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  1. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Kelly D Johnston: But the Rays’ other show dropped when they hosted a gay “Pride Night,” as many professional sports franchises do. However, the Rays went an extra step by adorning jerseys with gay pride-related logos on their jerseys to be worn during the game that night. Five players declined, citing their faith.

    The Ray’s should also, for the month of June, move their switch-hitters to the top of the batting order if they are really serious about Pride Month.

    Great post.

     

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I am in full agreement with you and Gov. DeSantis. Consequences, people, consequences.

    • #2
  3. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    The Rays’ Twitter feed exploded with profanity, hate, and religious bigotry from the Left. 

    There always seems to be a lot of permanently angry people on that side.

    • #3
  4. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    The Rays’ Twitter feed exploded with profanity, hate, and religious bigotry from the Left.

    There always seems to be a lot of permanently angry people on that side.

    I’m often amazed at how much hate, anger, bigotry, and intolerance seems to come with claiming to be in favor of “diversity and inclusion.” 

    • #4
  5. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    The Rays’ Twitter feed exploded with profanity, hate, and religious bigotry from the Left.

    There always seems to be a lot of permanently angry people on that side.

    I’m often amazed at how much hate, anger, bigotry, and intolerance seems to come with claiming to be in favor of “diversity and inclusion.”

    The secular religion of today will not tolerate tolerance. You must encourage, promote, and celebrate deviant sexual behavior or else face the wrath of new Puritans. And of course, we are to all pretend that wearing a hat with a rainbow logo will show the world anything other than the fact that you have surrendered to the mob’s rule.

    • #5
  6. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    Franco (View Comment):

    Kelly D Johnston: But the Rays’ other show dropped when they hosted a gay “Pride Night,” as many professional sports franchises do. However, the Rays went an extra step by adorning jerseys with gay pride-related logos on their jerseys to be worn during the game that night. Five players declined, citing their faith.

    The Ray’s should also, for the month of June, move their switch-hitters to the top of the batting order if they are really serious about Pride Month.

    Great post.

     

    Maybe it is time to rethink the term “switch hitter”

    Throws: Left

    Bats: Bi

    • #6
  7. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Kelly D Johnston: First, woke corporate activism. It culminated last year when Major League Baseball’s Commissioner, Rob Manfred, moved the 2021 “All-Star” game from Atlanta to Denver over Georgia’s new voter integrity law.

    While ignoring that Colorado’s voting laws are more “restrictive” than the NEW laws in Georgia.

    • #7
  8. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    I am in full agreement with you and Gov. DeSantis. Consequences, people, consequences.

    I like it when governors are taking notes……..

    • #8
  9. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Ron DeSantis . . . I think I’ll transition to a woman just so I can have his babies . . .

    • #9
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Stad (View Comment):

    Ron DeSantis . . . I think I’ll transition to a woman just so I can have his babies . . .

    I’m trying to wipe that image out of my mind . . . 

    • #10
  11. kedavis Coolidge
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Stad (View Comment):

    Ron DeSantis . . . I think I’ll transition to a woman just so I can have his babies . . .

    I think someone already did.

    Have his babies, I mean.

    Someone more qualified than you.

    • #11
  12. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Ron DeSantis . . . I think I’ll transition to a woman just so I can have his babies . . .

    I think someone already did.

    Have his babies, I mean.

    Someone more qualified than you.

    Whew!  I was worried I’d look terrible in a dress . . .

    • #12
  13. Ryan Renfro Member
    Ryan Renfro
    @RyanRenfro

    “Adam, the runner was headed to second base.  Why the heck did you throw the ball to first?”

    “I thought we were supposed to play for the other team tonight, coach.”

    • #13
  14. David Carroll Thatcher
    David Carroll
    @DavidCarroll

    There is nothing less tolerant of diverse opinions than the proponents of “diversity and inclusion.”

    George Orwell’s thought police are alive and well.

    • #14
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