We Already Know Who’s Winning Super Bowl LVII — the Billionaire Class

This coming Sunday, tens of millions of individuals will tune in for Tremendous Bowl Sunday, probably the most watched tv broadcast within the U.S. By design, Tremendous Bowl LVII will probably be an escapist spectacle — Rihanna’s halftime present and all — that many will sit again and totally get pleasure from (together with this creator, although my cherished Buffalo Payments gained’t be enjoying).

However none of this could distract from the truth that the category energy of NFL homeowners is something however a fantasy. The league is dominated by a small handful of multibillionaires who strong-armed their methods into big fortunes by swallowing up public subsidies, drilling huge quantities of oil and gasoline, busting unions and holding down wages, and pushing via wasteful growth initiatives.

Many homeowners (who’re almost all white) have additionally been large backers of Donald Trump, with no qualms about showering him with tens of millions of {dollars} even after he referred to as Mexicans “rapists” and praised white nationalists as “very nice individuals” — and all this, whereas raking in billions off the cruel bodily sacrifice of principally Black athletes and hiring extraordinarily few Black coaches.

Sports activities possession at this time — within the NFL and past — needs to be seen much less as a distinct segment enterprise enterprise and extra as a hyperlink within the wider chain of elite class rule aimed toward accumulating ever extra wealth on the expense of employees and the general public.

“These Franchises Are Streamlined Wealth-Extractors”

The previous days of scrappy workforce homeowners are lengthy gone. At present, you have to be a multibillionaire to purchase a significant sports activities franchise. Final yr, more than 10 percent of Forbes 400 members — the very richest individuals within the U.S. — owned sports activities groups.

Sports activities possession isn’t usually imagined as a key expression of elite class energy, but it surely needs to be.

“Staff possession has turn out to be a standing image among the many billionaire class,” Sean Dinces, a historical past professor at Lengthy Seaside Metropolis School and skilled on the historical past of the sports activities enterprise, advised Truthout.

Dinces mentioned that many ultra-wealthy sports activities homeowners revel of their shut proximity to superstar athletes and the “cool issue” that comes with it, which serves as a lift to their very own egos and a method to impress their friends. “Social, cultural and political status drive a whole lot of the demand among the many super-wealthy to purchase main league franchises,” he mentioned.

NFL homeowners characterize a cross-section of the U.S. ruling class, with the entire wealth of the highest stakeholders of the 31 privately owned NFL groups including as much as over 1 / 4 of a trillion {dollars}.

Extra importantly, Dinces mentioned, billionaires have reworked sports activities possession into an unabashed car for profit-making via the identical methods they use in different sectors — a method he wrote about at size in his most up-to-date ebook, Bulls Markets: Chicago’s Basketball Business and the New Inequality.

“The businessmen who revenue sufficient to afford a major-league franchise invariably made their fortunes in different industries by gaming the tax code, securing preferential political remedy from politicians by strategically greasing their palms with marketing campaign contributions, and ruthlessly suppressing labor prices,” mentioned Dinces. “They’ve imported such techniques into the operation of their groups.”

The league and its homeowners scoop up big quantities from charges for rights to broadcast their video games. Beginning this yr, the NFL will accumulate a median of $10 billion yearly from TV and streaming rights, double what it acquired from its earlier deal. However probably the most controversial approach that homeowners revenue is thru company welfare: billions in public subsidies and preferential tax remedy that undergird homeowners’ talents to rake in main income.

This company welfare is available in a variety of kinds that embrace sponsored municipal bonds for stadium development; property and gross sales tax exemptions; direct funds from state and native governments for stadium development; tax-increment financing; payment-in-lieu-of-taxes schemes that result in decrease tax funds; and public funding for ancillary infrastructure like new entry roads. In 2022, for instance, the Buffalo Payments have been awarded a file $850 million in public funds to construct a brand new stadium.

Gentrification within stadiums has been one other profit-making tactic, Dinces mentioned. Non-premium seating that was beforehand extra inexpensive for on a regular basis individuals is more and more being changed by luxurious bins, membership seating, and high-end meals and memento concessions.

“By now these franchises are streamlined wealth-extractors at each the native and nationwide stage,” Dinces mentioned.

Dinces emphasised that the rewarding of subsidies incessantly happens exterior of regular democratic processes by means of quasi-public sports activities facility “commissions” and “authorities” that don’t have any accountability to voters. These entities are sometimes overseen by native insiders appointed by governors or mayors who concern turning into the politicians who “misplaced” a beloved franchise by not assembly billionaire calls for for subsidies.

And whereas homeowners invariably tout the “financial impression” of recent stadiums of their respective cities, economists debunked this notion way back. Sometimes, elevated native spending on groups with new stadiums comes on the expense of spending elsewhere within the space, successfully canceling out any optimistic results on native progress.

That is all of the extra egregious as a result of many soccer gamers come from these very low-income areas that go underfunded: colleges strapped for money, job alternatives slim whereas billionaires get handouts. All of which feeds into the pipeline that channels poor and Black youth into the game, with all the intense dangers — particularly head injuries — that it entails.

To make it worse, Dinces mentioned, homeowners additionally use philanthropy as a cynical software to cowl their tracks — for instance, donating just a few million {dollars} to open an area constitution college, in the end diverting much more funds from the general public.

“It’s the traditional capitalist bait-and-switch,” Dinces mentioned. “Have a look at this paltry sum we’re bequeathing to the general public, however ignore the a lot bigger sum we’re pilfering from public coffers.”

Wall Road Billionaires, Oil Tycoons and Trump Backers

NFL homeowners characterize a cross-section of the U.S. ruling class, with the entire wealth of the highest stakeholders of the 31 privately owned NFL groups including as much as over 1 / 4 of a trillion {dollars} — larger than the GDP of New Zealand, Hungary or Qatar.

The web price of the seven richest particular person homeowners — Rob Walton (Broncos), David Tepper (Panthers), Robert Kraft (Patriots), Stephen Ross (Dolphins), Jerry Jones (Cowboys), Shahid Khan (Jaguars) and Stan Kroenke (Rams) — is round $140 billion. Rumors are flying that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, price $125 billion, is interested in shopping for the Washington Commanders.

Rob Walton, inheritor to the Walmart fortune, is price $59.4 billion, although he’s not the one retail billionaire to personal an NFL workforce: Dwelling Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, price $8 billion, owns the Atlanta Falcons. A number of homeowners made their billions via fossil fuels. Cowboys proprietor Jerry Jones owns Comstock Sources, one of many prime gasoline producers in Texas. Payments proprietor Terry Pegula made billions by promoting his fracking enterprise to Shell. The billionaire Hunt household that owns the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs — one of many groups enjoying on this yr’s Tremendous Bowl — is awash in petro-wealth, whereas the fortunes of Tennessee Titans proprietor Amy Adams Strunk and Houston Texans homeowners Janice McNair additionally come from oil and power empires.

Others reaped fortunes via Wall Road and actual property. David Tepper based the hedge fund Appaloosa Administration whereas Robert Kraft oversees a diversified, multibillion-dollar funding empire. A variety of actual property and growth billionaires — from the Dolphins’ Stephen Ross to the Rams’s Stan Kroenke to the Buccaneers’s Glazer family — personal groups, and have constructed their wealth via gobbling up billions in public subsidies.

Some NFL homeowners overtly assist far proper politicians. Even after Donald Trump referred to as Mexicans “rapists” in 2015, at the least 9 homeowners splurged millions on his marketing campaign and inaugural committee. Stephen Ross personally hosted an enormous fundraiser for Trump in August 2019, effectively after Trump praised white nationalists marching in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 as “very fine people.” Trump appointed Jets proprietor Woody Johnson as ambassador to Britain in 2017; Johnson responded with a massive donation in 2020.

These political allegiances shouldn’t come as a shock given the NFL’s personal clear racial hierarchy. It’s a league dominated by highly effective white homeowners who rent principally white coaches all whereas profiting within the billions off the sweat and accidents of Black males who make up the big majority of the league’s gamers and who’re disproportionately impacted by the sport’s violence. In the meantime, there have by no means been more than seven full-time Black coaches in a league of 32 groups. (As of now there are three.)

All this has led former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who was fired after two straight profitable seasons, to declare in a lawsuit that the NFL “is racially segregated and is managed very similar to a plantation” wherein principally white homeowners “watch the video games from atop NFL stadiums of their luxurious bins, whereas their majority-Black workforce put their our bodies on the road each Sunday, taking vicious hits and struggling debilitating accidents to their our bodies and their brains whereas the NFL and its homeowners reap billions of {dollars}.”

Not surprisingly, given their remedy of Colin Kaepernick after he knelt throughout the nationwide anthem to protest police violence, NFL homeowners additionally assist bankroll police departments via donations to police foundations that buy weapons and surveillance tech for cops. In line with reviews by LittleSis and Color of Change that I contributed to, the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks have all supported police foundations of their cities.

The Denver Union Busters

DeMaurice Smith, head of the Nationwide Soccer League’s gamers union, once said that the NFL “has in all probability been the biggest group of bullies within the labor market within the historical past of labor in America.” Whereas NFL gamers have a strong union that homeowners have been pressured to coexist with, it’s a unique story in different areas of their profit-making.

A variety of homeowners — from the Jaguars’ Khan and the Dolphins’ Ross to the Browns’ Jimmy Haslam and the Panthers’ Tepper — have confronted scrutiny over their assaults on employees and unions. However maybe no different NFL possession workforce has an anti-worker observe file as infamous as that of the Denver Broncos.

Rob Walton and his household paid a file $4.65 billion to purchase the Broncos in August 2022. Walton, by far the NFL’s richest owner, is the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton. He served as chairman of Walmart’s board from 1992 via 2015. Walton nonetheless sits on the board whereas his son-in-law is the chairman.

NFL homeowners additionally assist bankroll police departments via donations to police foundations that buy weapons and surveillance tech for cops.

Rob Walton oversaw the governance of Walmart — the nation’s top private employer — because it held down the wage floor throughout the nation and engaged in years of union busting. Walmart remains a poster youngster for low wages, although the corporate’s huge income have helped Rob construct up a boutique car collection price almost 1 / 4 of a billion {dollars}.

Becoming a member of the Waltons within the Broncos possession workforce is Mellody Hobson, a super-wealthy enterprise superstar who chairs the Starbucks board of administrators. As chair, Hobson has overseen Starbucks’s governance all through the corporate’s historic union-busting marketing campaign towards Starbucks Employees United, the baristas union that has succeeded in unionizing nearly 300 Starbucks areas since late 2021.

Hobson additionally runs a Chicago-based asset administration agency and sits on the board of JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. financial institution. She is married to Star Wars creator George Lucas, price $5.3 billion.

Below Hobson, Starbucks has been accused of hundreds of labor violations and of using an “expansive array of unlawful techniques” that features firing union leaders.

Truthout spoke to Len Harris, a shift supervisor on the Rock Creek and Parkway Starbucks in Superior, Colorado, simply exterior of Denver. Harris helped lead the hassle to win the first unionized Starbucks in Colorado in April 2022.

Harris mentioned that Starbucks employees in Colorado have confronted in depth intimidation from administration. After discuss of unionizing started, Harris’s retailer was all of the sudden flooded with companions, and their hours have been drastically minimize. Baristas confronted “2-on-1” conferences with district and retailer managers and got “a whole lot of crap” for sporting union pins, she mentioned.

Harris mentioned she was fired for “completely ridiculous” causes — with administration invoking insurance policies that “we had by no means heard earlier than” — the day after she and different baristas striked on Red Cup Day. She is interesting the termination. Harris additionally mentioned that Starbucks has stalled the bargaining course of with the union.

Harris’s Starbucks retailer is a few 30-minute drive from the Broncos stadium. It’s “very irritating” to “be fully disregarded and disrespected” by firm leaders like Hobson “as one of many companions of their firm that helps make them so rich and permits them this energy and this affect,” she mentioned.

“That is antithetical to every little thing Starbucks says that they stand for,” she went on.

Union members went to the Broncos stadium early within the season to move out leaflets to “draw consideration” to the truth that Hobson “has expressed little or no empathy to the state of affairs of union busting, which is illegitimate.” Harris famous that Starbucks retains a symbolic empty chair for its staff at its board conferences and mentioned they need to really fill that chair with a companion.

“Protecting an empty chair on the desk is nothing,” mentioned Harris. “You don’t have to speak with any individual who isn’t there. So fill that chair, give it a voice. Then we will discuss.”

Starbucks Employees United and the NFL Gamers Affiliation just lately introduced that they are going to rally collectively in Arizona on February 11 — the day earlier than the Tremendous Bowl — “for an finish to union-busting, whether or not it’s on the sphere or in our cafés!”

One other Tremendous Bowl Is Doable

Whereas at this time’s skilled sports activities leagues are dominated by billionaire homeowners, Dinces mentioned issues could possibly be accomplished in a different way.

Some progressives look to the “nonprofit” possession construction of the Inexperienced Bay Packers, which permits members of the general public to purchase shares within the workforce and vote on the workforce’s board of administrators. However Dinces says nationalization {of professional} sports activities franchises represents a simpler strategy.

“This is able to permit for extra parity in sources for groups, in addition to preclude the race-to-the-bottom competitors between native and state governments to draw and retain groups by concocting obscene subsidy offers,” he mentioned.

There may be some precedent for extra public accountability and oversight over sports activities. Through the New Deal, for instance, the federal authorities grew to become carefully concerned within the manufacturing of sports activities infrastructure. This ranged from funding native sports activities leagues and constructing neighborhood swimming pools to establishing main league caliber stadiums. In truth, the Works Progress Administration constructed Buffalo’s Conflict Memorial Stadium, the place the NFL’s Payments performed till the early Seventies.

Starbucks Employees United and the NFL Gamers Affiliation just lately introduced that they are going to rally collectively in Arizona on February 11 … “for an finish to union-busting, whether or not it’s on the sphere or in our cafés!”

“After all, we don’t stay in a political second wherein the nationalization of a high-profile business has a sensible likelihood of success,” says Dinces. “Conducting this may require a genuinely nationwide motion that brings collectively socialists, organized labor, anti-gentrification activists, and lots of others.”

On the very least, extra assertive regulation may stop homeowners from gouging the general public. Dinces mentioned probably the most practical technique at this time can be a marketing campaign to compel Congress to move laws that strictly limits the power of each stage of presidency to dole out subsidies to non-public sports activities groups.

“A very good start line can be to outlaw any subsidies, together with tax breaks, for facility development prices, upkeep and operation,” mentioned Dinces. “Wanting that, it could even be a step ahead to move and implement laws to ensure that groups share stadium revenues with their cities in proportion to the general public’s share of funding.”

A fast message earlier than you retain studying

We’re proud to publish actual information one year of the yr, fully freed from cost to our readers. However producing high-quality, impartial work isn’t cost-free – we rely closely in your assist.

When you discovered the piece above helpful, informative, or inspiring, please think about supporting Truthout with a month-to-month donation. A present of any dimension makes a distinction and helps preserve this distinctive platform alive.