There is a pattern forming. In the past week — before Monday’s appeals court ruling extending the lockout — we’ve seen a new stadium proposal for the Minnesota Vikings that amounts to a bilking of taxpayers. A judge is preparing to punish owners for cheating the players in negotiated TV deals. And waiters are suing a company co-founded by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for withholding tips from $35-a-day concession workers. If you had any lingering thoughts that the owners have been misunderstood or that the lockout isn’t their fault, recent events may have cured you of any sympathy with them.
Back in 2009, Jones and New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, with backing from Goldman Sachs, formed a company called Legends Hospitality to run the food, drink and merchandise services in their new billion-dollar stadiums.
A class action suit by club-level waiters at Yankee Stadium now claims that Legends Hospitality tacked an involuntary 20 percent “service charge” onto the already steep $10 beers and $8 hot dogs. A printed notice on menus said, “Additional gratuity is at your discretion.” But the people who actually served the food and drink never received any portion of that “service charge,” according to their lawyer; Legends Hospitality did.
This is how owners do business?
Ever since Jones and the NFL charged fans $200 just to stand outside the Super Bowl, there has been a growing awareness that many league owners treat the help and the paying spectators high-handedly, while at the same time digging in their pockets.
Consider how Minnesota Vikings owner Zygmunt Wilf is treating the residents who support him. For months he has been insinuating that unless he gets enough public funding for a new stadium, he may move the team to Los Angeles.
Under the latest proposal favored by the Vikings, Minnesotans would pony up $650 million so Wilf can have a new $1 billion palace in the Arden Hills suburb of St. Paul. Ramsey County would get hit with a $350 million tab via a sales tax increase. The state, which is facing a $5 billion budget shortfall, would contribute another $300 million. The Vikings would contribute $407 million, but would pay no rent at all, and would get all revenues from the stadium, including parking, signage and naming rights. What a deal for the public.
That’s not all. The county would be on the hook for $1.5 million a year in operating expenses; the Vikings would be exempt from any state sales taxes on the building materials; and the state would be required to make improvements to roads and infrastructure that could cost $240 million more.