Fabiola Santiago: Sports subsidies should not override funding for social issues

03/21/2014 4:06 PM

03/21/2014 5:39 PM

In my next life, I’m going to be more Machiavellian about my career choices. Instead of writing about social issues, I’ll flex my muscle in sports.

Sports people are blessed with huge salaries and big profits — and the God-given right to free public money and assets. In other sectors, subsidies and entitlements are commonly known as welfare, but in the exciting world of ball-dribbling, chasing and tackling, they’re considered incentives to exist.

Unlike the bottom rung of programs that serve the poor, the elderly, the mentally ill — or simply, a kid with big dreams, not to slam-dunk a ball, but to be able to check out life-expanding books from the public library — the tax money that goes to support sports teams and fancy stadiums is seldom on the chopping block.

This type of corporate welfare is protected by long-term contracts hashed out by expensive legal teams, high-paid administrators of public money, and all-too eager elected officials.

No tax break is too small for sports.

The Florida House is considering a bill (HB 231), sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, that would lift the admissions tax on all-star games.

Given the shortage of tax dollars to fund education, child protective services, and mental-health programs, to name a few life-saving services in need, isn’t that just what the state needs — to pass a tax break for the priciest games, those affordable only to the better off?

Given the life-death issues affecting Floridians, is the price of tickets to games what our legislators should be debating? Shouldn’t Brodeur be more concerned with state-sanctioned gun violence than sports welfare, given his town’s infamous history as the place that spawned George Zimmerman and the killing of an unarmed 17-year-old?

But those are words to the wind. The sports racket with our tax dollars isn’t sufficiently frowned upon by nearly enough voters — or lawmakers wouldn’t get away with the handout.

If there was more outrage, the answer to billionaire Dolphins owner Steve Ross’ latest proposal to be excused from paying $3.8 million in property taxes in exchange for renovating Sun Life Stadium with his money and turning it over to the county would’ve been simply, “No.”

The deal would leave the city of Miami Gardens without $1 million in municipal taxes and take away another $1 million from the county’s public schools. Talk about taking away from the poor to give to the rich.

Likewise, soccer star David Beckham’s wish to build a soccer stadium on public land necessary for expanding port operations (tourists/cargo pay taxes) — a locale that can no longer stand more traffic than is already imposed on taxpayers — also would’ve been, “No.”

But both deals are being aggressively pursued because the beneficiaries know we’ve previously given away the house. Why is there no shame attached to money-making enterprises asking for public subsidies when a working parent seeking help with child care and healthcare is perceived as a freeloader?

We should all pray for a life in sports — and to be born male. After all, when was the last time anyone heard about a government entity building a stadium to accommodate a female sports team?

When it comes to sports welfare, it’s a shameless man’s world.

About Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago

@fabiolasantiago

Fabiola Santiago was born in Cuba. She was exiled to the U.S. in 1969 on one of the historic Freedom Flights. She has been a Herald reporter and editor since 1980.

Join the Discussion

Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service