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Organized sports rackets ripping us off

While we sports fans regularly lionize the stars of pro baseball, football, basketball, etc., it's time to acknowledge that the team executives and owners are also great athletes of a different sort. They routinely make dazzling off-the-field moves.

The Miami Herald recently spotlighted one such star in the owner's box at Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins. Team CEO Mike Dee was asked in a TV interview whether a nearly $200 million taxpayer subsidy proposed for the team's privately owned stadium is "welfare for billionaires."

Rather than trying to run a sweep around the possibility that the owners ought to pay for their own stadium, Dee ran straight ahead, sprinting like a hall-of-fame fullback right up the middle of the question: Rich people, he explained, should not "invest money in a way that is unwise."

What a sporting fellow! Just toss the unwise investment to taxpayers and let them fumble it.

Herald sportswriter Glenn Garvin notes the Carolina Panthers ran an $80 million pass play at Charlotte's city officials to refurbish the team's home, Bank of America stadium. When those local defenders of taxpayers' money offered little resistance, the Panthers quickly called an audible, throwing a hail mary pass of $125 million in subsidies.

Then, owner Jerry Richardson was brought in to face a closed-door meeting with the city council. It looked bad for the team at first, but Jerry turned it around with some deft inside maneuvers, scoring nearly $144 million in public funds.

Across the country, from Tampa Bay to San Francisco, these corporate laterals are ripping off taxpayers for billions of dollars -- money that should go to public needs, not private profits. To check out the game in your area, visit fieldofschemes.com.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.