The cure for sports blackmail: Have your city take over the team 


Oakland A’s fans are outraged, and they have every right to do so. They also have remedies.

A’s owner John Fisher has dragged the team through the mud and is now trying to move it to Las Vegas. His claim that the Bay Area wouldn’t support the A’s is patently false — it’s just hard to support a team whose owners treat fans with such disdain.

Just yesterday, Oakland fans staged a “reverse boycott” – selling a home game just to show they would indeed show up to support a functioning team.

But what can they do? Fisher owns the team and wants to move. Are they out of luck? not at all.

Oakland and the state of California should simply seize the team through eminent domain.

Eminent domain is the quintessential sovereign power that enables the government to compel the purchase of property for public purposes. Typical examples are rights of way for roads or schools. The government takes the land and the landowners are compensated.

Does this apply to MLB clubs? no doubt.california supreme court thought about it, and should look familiar, since Oakland has been here before. In 1982, the Oakland Raiders attempted to move to Los Angeles, and the city moved to it for eminent domain. “It is a proper function of municipal government to provide residents with opportunities for entertainment in the form of sporting events,” the court said. The idea “has been almost universally accepted in most jurisdictions.”

The court’s decision is justified. Sports teams mean a lot to cities. They help create communities. As a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, I know personally that sports teams have public functions, even though they are private businesses. Just ask the still-resentful residents of Brooklyn what they thought of losing the Dodgers sixty years ago.

Sociologists and urban planners have long known that “third space,” the time people spend between home (“first space”) and work (“second space”), is crucial to building strong public spaces. important. These “third places” are places where people exchange ideas, have a good time and build relationships. Stadiums, more importantly restaurants and bars where people watch their teams play, and all kinds of “third places” that strong cities need. The bar in the TV show “Cheers” centers on a down-and-out Red Sox reliever and team fan.

If the city of Oakland or the state of California gets an A through eminent domain, the team will be a public company, at least initially. But we shouldn’t be afraid of clichés about government ownership of businesses. Anyone who has ever flown on Singapore Airlines or gotten electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority knows how efficient public corporations can be.

Plus, Fisher’s depleted A’s are headed for the worst record in baseball history. He is not qualified to tell others how to run a club.

Will requisitioning a domain name be expensive? Yes. According to Forbes, A is worth about $1.2 billion. But they also make money: about $29 million a year, according to Forbes. In any case, we’re not going to ask whether Parks and Recreation is profitable. We don’t ask whether museums make money. These are public services. The same goes for sports teams.

More realistically, though, the logical move for Oakland and California would be to sell the team to a private owner, recovering the money spent on land expropriation. That’s what A’s fans want. In the reverse boycott, thousands held signs pleading “Sell!” The team’s profitability should find buyers in the billionaire Bay Area.

Reselling can create legal issues, but these are easily overcome. The U.S. Supreme Court has precedent for prohibiting the taking of property from one private group for another.

But in the famous case kello v new london, The court held that a sufficient public purpose was sufficient to avoid this problem.

Even in California, after the state Supreme Court ruled that the city of Oakland could expropriate land against the Raiders, Intermediate Court of Appeals bans it The argument was that it would violate the U.S. Constitution’s “dormant” commerce clause, which prohibits states from taking certain actions that affect interstate commerce. But even such an unpersuasive opinion helps Oakland’s case. The court noted that in the NFL “[l]The revenue from eague TV contracts is split evenly, and gate receipts are nearly evenly split; therefore, the attractiveness of a team is an economic benefit to the other teams as well as to itself. ’ It’s the exact opposite of baseball, where teams have to bargain aggressively for their regional TV contracts and carefully hoard tickets. So any commercial terms issues go away.

It’s not just about Oakland. Every year, some owner threatens a city with losing a team unless he achieves his goals with a new stadium or some other massive public subsidy. Fisher has done just that in Las Vegas, demanding nearly $5 billion for his incompetence. enough.

It’s time for the city to fight back. Plus, Las Vegas was already full of magic: The Golden Knights won their first Stanley Cup on the same day A’s fans begged to keep their team — in a 96-degree outside arena. under high temperature. Sin City will be fine.

Jonathan Zasloff, a law professor at UCLA School of Law, has been a Dodgers fan since 1970.

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