2014 Symposium: Should the government be involved in the politics of sports (LA Clippers, Ray Rice, and Washington Redskins)?

Asheville, NC: Government is actively involved in the regulation of sports. Legal monopolies are granted to the MLB, the NBA, and the NFL. All three organizations are also granted tax-exempt status despite their enormous profitability. Professional sports organizations receive billions in bonds, tax deferral, and civic money for the construction of new stadiums and other facilities. The degree of co-mingling between government and sports organizations is already quite dramatic.

It should be relatively uncontroversial, then, when government wants something in exchange for its money and favorable regulatory environment. The terms of such an exchange, though, should extend no further than the ordinary reach of the law. When Ray Rice is caught on video engaging in a savage act of domestic violence, we ought to expect his employers to cooperate with the authorities in pursuing criminal charges. We should not have a similar expectation that he be fired for that reason, particularly before he is convicted. Such an act would put him in jeopardy twice for the same action in violation of his rights. When LA Clippers owner Don Sterling makes obviously racist statements, we should expect that his organization would cooperate in an investigation of possible discriminatory housing practices. As consumers, we have a right to boycott such an organization if we find its politics unpalatable, but government should not intervene to punish an act of speech.

The owners and employees of professional sports organizations ought not to be treated differently than the employees and owners of any other private company. The unique relationship between those organizations and branches of government creates an expectation of greater cooperation, but should not alter the protections provided by the constitution. Each individual should receive equal protection under the law, regardless of the kind of work they do.

Prescott Valley: The government should not be involved in the politics of sports, but it seems that government has inserted itself into the arena of sports and politicized it at the same time. Government has taken pastimes such as basketball, football and baseball and attempted to play commissioner, micro manager, and referee all in the same breath.

The public is weary of government intervention in the sports world, and believe that government should in no way be involved in resolving issues of teams, individual athletes and sports leagues. Many sports lovers and participants in sports activities have found it hard to believe that the government would ever interfere with resolving sports-related issues. Every time a viewer tunes in to one of the many cable sports channels there seem to be stories about an athlete or team being questioned or investigated by government officials for alleged wrong doing, and that process is getting very tiresome, particularly when sports investigations have nothing to do with the pressing matters of the country in general.

The government’s priorities are misplaced. Any rules that are broken by athletes, sports teams or their general staff need to be handled by the appropriate managers or league commissioners, not the federal government. Thousands of dollars in tax dollars towards investigations have been wasted on hearings concerning Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, drug and steroid use, along with more recent federal pressure concerning domestic violence and Ray Rice, child abuse and Adrian Peterson, racism and the LA Clippers, the Washington Redskins and their supposed politically incorrect namesake, as well as DEA charges on NFL medical staffs for dispensing supposed unauthorized substances. The list goes on and the encroachment into sports continues with whatever the government can devise to keep the turmoil of scrutiny moving.

The next big sports scandal will certainly be broadcast and brought to the forefront with a government agency on the sidelines waiting to pounce on the developing story, and sports figures and sports fans will be dragged through another endless round of government dictates and input as to what should transpire.

Cartwright: The government shouldn’t be involved in private business matters unless the law has been or is being broken. Let’s look at Don Sterling and the Clippers controversy. It’s not the government’s right to attempt to strip private property just because liberals don’t like what someone said. First off, I could care less what he said. We still have freedom of speech as guaranteed by the 1st amendment to the Constitution. If you don’t like what he said, don’t patronize the Clippers. I find it quite ironic that despite the controversy the fans didn’t abandon the team. The fans were still filling the seats. The players didn’t quit. They still played each game. If what he said had been so egregious and inflammatory, the players should have all quit and the fans should have boycotted the team and the games.

Same thing goes for the Washington Redskins controversy. Last time I saw a Redskins game on TV it looked like the stands were pretty well filled. The fans haven’t abandoned the team. The players haven’t quit.

Personally, I don’t think most people care about these “controversies.” These are all distractions created by the media. The free markets work. If the consumers didn’t like what Sterling said or found the Redskins name and logo so offensive, the teams would pay a price for it financially. That didn’t really happen.

We have nearly $20 trillion in national debt. One in six Americans go to bed hungry at night. Over fifty million people in the greatest and most prosperous nation in the world don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Our children are falling farther and farther behind in education. These are the real problems. Why don’t they talk about these issues and get people fired up to find a solution for these very real problems? Why does the media even bother with crap like the Clippers or Redskins?

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