THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
Sportswriters have been busy assigning blame to either National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern or the Executive Director of the now defunct National Basketball Players Association Billy Hunter for what is now a six week NBA lockout. That's easy to do but there is a strain of laziness that runs through the sports journalism community that stops at “the who is to blame game.”
There is far more to this lockout than no NBA basketball and the sports talk radio show jargon. I really feel sorry for die- hard fans and the workers who have been laid off, like vendors and ticket takers (who work on average six times a month in per diem jobs over a seven month period, nine if two teams get to the league championship series) who are not working NBA games. The workers, like vendors and ticket takers and parking lot attendants, are working other events and while area businesses may a slight fall off, an NBA game is just one event that an arena hosts.
The areas that could be impacted are hotels that lose NBA team traveling parties of maybe 30-40 people and some restaurants along with private aircraft carriers that ferry around teams and some municipalities that are not getting tax from players because they aren’t getting paid. New York and Philadelphia are losing the “Michael Jordan tax” along with some other cities as they are not getting visiting players tax dollars when there are no games.
Ticket takers, vendors and parking lot attendants aren’t making a living off of the NBA. However there is an area of concern that is directly affected by NBA teams not playing home games.
There is a question of taxpayers’ money and missed revenues that need to go off to pay the bonds on all of the new buildings that were constructed after the 1986 federal tax code revisions. The Ronald Reagan signed, congressionally endorsed changes that forever altered the way municipalities pay for arenas. An individual franchise owner could keep up to 92 cents on every dollar generated inside a municipally funded arena with as little as eight centers going to pay down the debt.
Some NBA owners have a franchise in a privately built facility like the Dolan family. The Cablevision owners have in their portfolio the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers, the New York Liberty, the Madison Square Garden Network and Madison Square Garden. The Dolans, thanks to 1982 New York State legislation which was asked for by then-owner Gulf and Western and agreed to by then-Mayor Ed Koch, have been off the New York City property tax rolls since they purchased the team in the mid-1990s. Gulf and Western got the exemption in 1982 after claiming, and Koch bought the tale lock, stock and barrel, that their Knickerbockers NBA franchise could not compete with say the Milwaukee Bucks, Kansas City Kings and Indiana Pacers of the world, while the NHL Rangers had a devil of a time keeping up with the Hartford Whalers, Colorado Rockies and the Winnipeg Jets of the hockey universe.