John Oliver on publicly funded sports stadiums

As I keep saying, John Oliver, host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight, is a national treasure. Last Sunday he and the show’s staff did yet another excellent exposé, this one on the stupidity of giving vast amounts of unneeded welfare to rich sports teams. The video runs 19 minutes, longer than I would normally post, but it really is worth your time.


Here are just a few of the notable facts revealed between the jokes:

  • Ninety percent of U.S. sports stadiums have been rebuilt in the last 20 years with the costs paid by local taxpayers.
  • In just the years 2000-2010 alone, local governments spent $12 billion on the facilities.
  • There’s no evidence that the money spent helps the local economy or increases tax revenues.
  • Six days after Detroit filed for bankruptcy (and among other things slashed pensions owed and promised to elderly retired workers) it got approval to spend $280 million in taxpayer money on the Red Wings, whose owner is worth over $5 billion.
  • Not only do teams typically pay no rent on the stadiums and get to keep the ticket revenues and broadcast fees, in many cases, additional income — from naming rights, concessions, luxury box rentals, even non-sports-related entertainment events — goes not to repay the taxpayers but to make the teams and their owners even richer.
  • The owner of the Florida Marlins claimed to be losing money when demanding a new stadium (with fishtanks surrounding the field and even luxury swimming pools overlooking it), but he wouldn’t open the books, and leaked documents later revealed that the team was in fact making lots of money.
  • John Oliver has no clue what “begs the question” means.

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