Reforming American Professional Sports: A Proposal

Please see this article at the LeagueOfFans.org, a consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader and part of the Center for Responsive Law.

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When many people think about professional sports, they think “it’s just a game”. They do not think too much about the organization of our largest leagues and likely would not consider anything to be wrong with the economies of pro sports in America. To most, everyone should be happy to be making whatever money they are already making.

Yet in actuality they are not just games but rather a massive multi-billion dollar industry that has benefited from “It’s just a game” to stifle the economic rights of both its labor and any potential competitors, directly harming consumers and public finances. In a closed sports system, current team owners alone control who is allowed to enter a league and are permitted to place extreme and onerous entry requirements upon any potential entrants.

There is no modern justifiable reason that leagues like the NFL or NBA should enjoy a monopoly and be permitted to prevent new businesses from joining the competition. Whereas the granting of antitrust exemptions were fruitful in the initial development and stabilization of pro sports in America, the industry has grown beyond their need and these protected corporations currently abuse their exempted status.

Considering the rapid evolution of pro sports over the last 40 years, Congress should remove all anti-trust exemptions given to pro sports and pass legislation to ensure that new entrants to each sport are permitted based on objective standards and identifiable criteria. The closed-system leagues must not be allowed to construct subjective and shifting barriers to entry into a marketplace and fandom should never trump the public benefits of economic competition.

Creating an open sports system for America would result in national and regional economic growth heretofore unforeseen and untapped, increased competition and resulting benefits to consumers, increased economic empowerment to minority communities, diversity of ownership of professional teams, the alleviation of the inequities of the NCAA and greatly benefit public finances.

If an investment group or an individual desires to start a sports team and can meet a pre-determine standard with reasonable threshold requirements for capital funding, business structure, etc., then they should not be required to seek the permission of already established entities to compete. The leagues can adjust their structures accordingly to their desire to meet an influx of new entrants.

Open Sports Systems Internationally

Around the world, we are provided countless examples of open sports systems that thrive within nations with weaker or less stable economies. The most prominent example is the league hierarchy system, more commonly known as promotion and relegation and widely used in Europe. Within this system, teams competing in the top league must earn their right to remain in the top league through their on-field performance. This is because the three teams that finish at the bottom of the standings at year’s end are subject to relegation to the next lower league.

Correspondingly, the three teams that finish at the top of the next lower league are promoted to the top league. This process is repeated throughout a multi-league structure with the total number of leagues depending upon how many eligible teams there are within the overall system. In England for example, there are currently five leagues considered professional national leagues atop a vast network of lower regional leagues.

The English Football System via englishsoccerguide.com

This process ensures that every team is incentivized to always compete and never ‘tank the season,’ as suffering relegation would cause them to miss out on large payouts, derived from media rights and profit sharing, that will be given to the teams in the top league in the next season. Instead, the relegated teams will receive an apportionment equal to other teams in the next lower league. Which is usually an amount much less than the apportionments given in the top league.

Other open systems merely employ a multiple conference or large group play system with an expanded playoff format but lack the quality of play benefits of a league hierarchy system.

Yet in all open systems, never are private corporations permitted to arbitrarily limit the number of competitors in the marketplace.

Economic Benefits Of An Open System

Every team created, like any business, means jobs and tax income based off of those jobs. As an example, the NBA has thirty teams, thirty administrative staffs, thirty coaching staffs and player rosters. In total, a few thousand people involved in the sport, deriving incomes they spend in their communities and taxable to local, state, and federal authorities. Along with the direct employees, many thousands more rely on the income the sport creates including support staff, stadium vendors, merchandise manufacturers, hotels workers, security staffs, local law enforcement agencies and so forth.

Overall, in our nation of over 300,000,000, the US sports industry represents only a tiny fraction of our GDP and employment, tallying approximately $14.5 Billion in earnings per year (less than 0.001% of US GDP) and contributing 456,000 jobs (0.3% of all US Jobs). (http://www.economicmodeling.com/2013/07/09/not-just-a-game-the-impact-of-sports-on-u-s-economy/)

England, a comparable economy and culture to the United States, has only a population of 50,000,000 but uses open sports systems. Though their population and GDP is less than one-sixth of the United States, their sports industry generates $24 Billion USD (1.9% of England’s GDP) and 400,000 full-time equivalent jobs (2.3% of all jobs in England). (https://www.sportengland.org/media/3465/economic-value-of-sport.pdf). If the labor percentages between these nations were equal, it would translate to an additional 2.8 Million American jobs. Under our current system, the United States is not close to fully tapping the incredible potential of the economies of sports to grow further in the future.

With an open system, there would not be only 30 or so professional teams across each sport. The amount would be determined by how many teams the American sports market could sustain. Accordingly, there would be multiple the number of executives, managers, trainers, vendors, manufacturers and athletes. The economic expansion of professional sports may be the largest short-term job creation vehicle available to our nation. Job creation that would also benefit the many minority groups which represent a large percentage of the labor within the sports industry.

For many cities like Austin and Louisville or states like Iowa or West Virginia, an open system is the only method by which they are ever likely to have a pro-sports team. Within England, there are thousands of professional football clubs in the interconnected league system, each ensured the same opportunity, based on performance, to enter into to the top league.

Is there any city in America with more than 150,000 people that would not have at least one professional sports team placed into an overall open system like England’s? Per the 2010 Census, there are over 170 cities in America with more than 150 000 people. Green Bay, the 283rd largest city in America and only the 153rd largest metropolitan area already hosts a professional sports team whereas metropolitan areas like Providence (38th), Louisville (44th) and Birmingham (49th) host none. Cities or metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago, and LA could likely sustain many multiple teams. By example there are over 30 professional football clubs in London alone, six of which currently compete in their nation’s top league.

Diversity of Ownership of Sports Teams

Creating objective standards to entry and enforcing capitalistic principles of fair competition would also eliminate long-standing concerns regarding diversity of ownership of sports franchises. In order to compete and start a franchise, minority or female ownership groups would no longer need permission from rich men maintaining their monopoly.

Public Financing of Stadiums

Beyond job creation or concerns regarding diversity of ownership, ending this system of corporate protectionism would end the game of exploitation teams routinely play with local governments when asking for handouts to build new stadiums. We allow these professional leagues to limit the number of entrants and their individual teams are able to hold cities and towns hostage with the threat of departure. As there can only be so many teams in the leagues in a closed system, the threat of a team leaving leaves local populations with the tough choice of coughing up millions or saying goodbye to professional sports with little hope of its return.

This scheme of public exploitation would not exist if these protected businesses knew a new entrant could immediately fill the market they left. Cities and towns would not feel as compelled to hand over money, often previously allocated to schools and social services, to a private business. Rather than be able to dangle the threat that a town would be permanently left without a sports franchise, the towns would know that if their market can support a franchise, another ownership group would come along.

via deadspin

The current system places all the negotiating leverage with private businesses and they use their leverage to extort local politicians. Requiring objective standards to entry within the sports marketplace would switch the dynamic and place the leverage with public officials and save billions for cities and towns across America.

The NCAA Monopoly

Open systems would also greatly alleviate many of the economic inequities that persist within the NCAA by providing alternative paths to professional sports. The NCAA owns a monopoly on the path to professional football and basketball and use it to profit immensely from the work of young Americans while exercising draconian rules against their behavior and holding their career hopes hostage. For a university, a scholarship and a dorm room, or simply not charging a student, is cheap currency. Yet, for the athlete, they must take a nominally compensated gamble on their future while actively doing an activity that generates millions in profits.

As we have seen among the many open systems in Europe, removing barriers to entry allows enough entrants into the marketplace that the paths to finding employment within the overall industry also multiply, from lower division or smaller teams holding tryouts to larger teams creating development academies to scout and sign young talent. With this system, young athletes are provided with a choice of whether to enter the workplace and receive compensation for their services immediately after high school or continue to college for an education while also playing sports.

Women’s Pro Sports

An open sports system would also have profound effects on women’s professional sports in America, which has failed to develop in comparison with our European counterparts. Many of America’s professional female athletes seek employment abroad because of the lack of opportunities within the major team sports in America. All notable attempts to start female sports leagues in the United States have been in the form of closed systems with similar obstacles placed upon new entrants to protect the already established entities and prevent open competition from any outside groups.

As such, there is no incentive for individuals or groups to invest in new female teams unless they are provided assurances they will be allowed to enter the closed system or unless they intend to invest sufficiently to establish an entire league themselves. Since the already established entities limit and control competition to protect their investments and since seeking out sufficient investment to form an entire league is an incredibly high burden, the current dynamic works to dissuade new investment into female sports and limits the potential growth of the overall industry in America.

An open system of female sports would provide a stable and reliable structure for which new entities can enter the market and compete against already established entities upon meeting certain objective standards and criteria. Doing so would promote new investment into female sports since new teams would never need permission from established entities to enter the marketplace and never need to seek out sufficient capital to form an entire league.

Rather than permit the development of women’s pro sports to be constrained by closed systems that serve only the interests of a select few, it would be supported by a stable overall structure that allows it to grow organically with the free market determining where in America teams could thrive.

Conclusion

In summation, the potential benefits of reforming the economies of sport could be far reaching for many Americans. Unfortunately, the potential impact and benefit to us all through quality of play, economic growth, direct or indirect employment, tax revenues, consumer benefits, youth and minority economic empowerment, or public finances is prevented to preserve the status quo of current monopolies in our closed sports system.

Thus, I present this for your consideration: to urge Congress to reform the structures of American professional sports with the creation and enforcement of an open and inclusive sport system.

 

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Donald the Carpathian

Trump the Carpathian

Donald Trump has a powerful tool at his disposal. He has the power of Vigo the Carpathian, that infamous and fearsome villain from Ghostbusters 2. I am not calling Donald a villain per se. He’s no more villainous to me than the vast majority of American politicians. I think he’s just playing their game better than them since his lack of legislative record allows him to say anything.

Win or lose for Mr. Trump, there are going to be a lot books written about this election cycle devoted to his effect on American politics and its future. Journalists, documentarians and partisan analysts will study how he’s managed to do what he’s done so far.

Assuredly, there will be many reasons attributed. No less his wealth and ability to eschew big donors as well as his business background and loud personality. But he had all of that to start and back then it did not appear he’d get anywhere.

Donald Trump did not start the rise that we have yet to see ebb until he became Vigo the Carpathian.  Vigo’s power of course was that he could channel the hate in society to make himself more powerful.

We must remember that Donald did not start his campaign talking about walls and muslims. He just followed the lead of the American people and its media.  He merely used the hate and fear spouted at different times on cable news and by us to get attention and gain points.

Last July, a lady was walking with her father on a pier in San Francisco when she was suddenly shot in the back and killed.  No one knew what happened or why initially but the story exploded in the media with speculation about gangs or serial killers to whomever. Eventually, it became disclosed that an undocumented immigrant with a criminal past had been taken into custody.  Once this was disclosed, there was only one narrative: Violent Criminal Illegal Immigrant Previously Deported Murders Woman – Migrant Crisis In America!  The media’s hate and fear machine was kicked into high gear with salaciously-titled articles and perspective-less talking heads opining on what must be done.  Of course, every candidate was asked to give a policy statement immediately. All of this and the poor lady had not yet even had a funeral.

At the zenith of the hoopla, and addressed to gain points among a particular voter segment whose emotions had been most heightened by the tragedy, Donald harnessed their hates and fears and announced his wall to a thunderous applause. He spoke about Mexicans killing and raping and swaths of the specific primary voters he needed to support him at that juncture ate it up. All he did was the follow the lead of the U.S Media and its viewers. Like Vigo, he absorbed their hate , used it and became more powerful.

The actual truth about the death, while still tragic and avoidable, was not nearly as salacious as the news had described. The homeless immigrant with a prior history of theft and drug use found a gun in a dumpster. The gun was wrapped in a t-shirt when it fired accidentally, ricocheted off the ground and killed Kathryn Steinle. The perpetrator did not know the bullet hit anyone and never intended to fire the weapon. Not quite the “Immigrants Are Out To Kill Us” that was pitched by much of the media at the time Donald proposed his wall. Didn’t matter though. The message was timed right to deliver the points he needed.

The same thing occurred with San Bernandino. The fear and hate machine, which has done a effective job of equating terrorist with any criminal that is a muslim, turned the dial to eleven when the identities of the shooters were disclosed. Quickly, we were told the shooters had professed allegiance to ISIS on Facebook and the American people were driven again to state of heightened emotions.

When the noise was as loud as possible, Donald announced his travel ban and willingness to consider a national registry for muslims. Donald tapped another supply line of our fears and hates to make himself stronger.  Of course, it didn’t matter that the allegation regarding the shooters professing allegiance to ISIS on Facebook had been retracted. The message was again timed right to gain points among the groups of people he hoped would vote for him.

Let us not forget that the hate of the establishment that pervades within so many Americans was his original appeal and continues to buoy his campaign despite his more outlandish rhetoric.

Amazingly though, not only does Donald  thrive when our hate or the media’s hate is directed to a particular group, minority or class but even when it is directed squarely at him.

Never has a single candidate sustained such vicious insults and ad hominem attacks from so many widespread sources and thrived. With each passing week, the volume within the mainstream media about why we are supposed to hate Donald multiplies.

Yet when it is directed at him, it only humanizes him to the large portion of our populace whose vote is not already devoted to one party. These crude attacks and attempts to limit his free speech only show the other side is as equally vicious, hateful or as absurd as they perceive their enemy to be.  When the insults and hate are directed to his wife or family, such as those on my Facebook feed posting old nude photos of Melania Trump, the humanizing effect upon Donald Trump is tenfold.

No matter its source or direction, our hates and fears only empower Donald Trump.  The same way it did Vigo in Ghostbusters 2.  Except at the finale the American people will not be joining hands in a love-fest, singing pleasant songs together to combat anyone.  And the US Media is never going to change its fear-mongering and hate-baiting ways.

This is not a movie with a scripted ending. Instead, it is the real world rise of Donald The Carpathian.

Election Prediction: Trump beats Clinton

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{{I put this up in March but took it down two weeks later because I was too fed up and disgusted with this never-ending election cycle.  But I’ll leave it up…for now.}}

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If you’ve read anything on this site, you know I despise both political parties.  I vowed long ago to never vote for either party in federal or state elections.

However, this doesn’t mean I don’t know to read the tea leaves to see which way things are going.

Now this Donald Trump thing has happened and everyone says the world is falling apart. Early on, I admit I wasn’t paying too much attention to Mr. Trump. I thought he was an egoist on an absurd adventure that couldn’t go anywhere. Among the GOP candidates, I actually thought Jeb probably had the best chance to become POTUS only because I believed him to be the most palatable to the broader public in a general election against any Dem. Especially against Hillary since she can’t use the term “dynasty” or “corrupt” against anyone as they apply too well to her.

As Donald began to rise, I began rooting against him. I vehemently disagree about that wall and travel moratorium and still do…but I really enjoy him talking about corrupt politicians, giving out Lindsey Graham’s phone number (which I definitely called to tell him he sucks at his job – Thanks, Donald!), and now blatantly using Chris Christie like an obedient tool. How can you not enjoy someone treating politicians with the contempt they deserve?

Like many others, I’m ready to make my prediction for November:

Donald Trump will win the election and become President of The Unites States of America.

The  reason is simple: all things considered, the American people will think he is the best candidate and thus will deserve to win.

Donald will not be running against Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan, or even 1992’s feel-good Bill Clinton. He is running against the 2016 version of Hillary Clinton.

People get very upset about the various offensive things Donald has said about whatever group. I know I have several times.  Cursed him aloud, wished ill upon his fortunes and mocked his hair. But let’s not be naive. Donald is a salesman and he has been successfully selling a message to a particular audience. Back when no one would take him seriously, he pitched loudly to the more extreme yet largely-shoved-aside portion of the republican base in order to gain some steam. He could have pitched to the same brands of Republicans that Jeb did but there was always a plethora of the same-as-usual GOP candidates doing the same thing. Wasn’t there more than ten to start? By taking his rhetoric to a slightly more extreme than his opponents, he was able to harness the frustration that exists in the large portion of the GOP base that always feels they are being taken for granted by their leaders.

But that’s all he’s done. Sold a message better than his opponents. With more zing and passion, he says what the audience wants to hear. Does anyone actually think Donald Trump is truly a racist? Or that he truly hates immigrants? Look at his lifestyle and history. I believe Donald will say what he needs to win that GOP nomination. I believe Donald would make a profitable deal with anyone, no matter of their race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. I believe he has essentially one question for everything: “is it good for what I’m doing now?”

Beware when this talented salesman starts selling a broader message with all that zing but to a broader electorate. The anti-establishment sentiment he captured on the right also exists on the left. The left just currently views him as an odious racist and loon. But again, he hasn’t been selling to them…yet.

Soon, the message will shift. He won’t need to make the race-baiting or anti-immigrant statements to get ahead. Or at least he will not need to make them as strongly. We Americans have short memory spans and the rhetoric in the coming months will be very different than what we’ve heard. The large undecided portion of our electorate will make their choice in November based on what they heard in August, September and October of 2016, not 2015.

When I take an objective look at what I think will happen over the next eight months, I must be honest with myself and state that Donald Trump will beat Hillary Clinton. It won’t be a fluke. He will have earned it.

Here’s why:

1) The economy.

In the general election, it’s the economy, stupid. The Clintons know this all too well. While Obama, who kept greasing GWB’s QE debt machine, has seen high stock prices and low gas prices, meaningful jobs is the number one thing people in this country want.

Attacking free trade policies is a winner on both the left and right and Donald knows this. In the general, he will drive this one home over and over again. Hillary on the other hand is weighted down by a terrible legislative record supporting free trade back to its beginning with NAFTA, done by her husband. With her legislative baggage and well-known wealthy corporate backers, she cannot counter this argument. Even Bernie Sanders has used her record against to great effect.

Attacking free trade resonates with Americans and Donald is the only one in the general that gets to support its deconstruction.

2) Foreign policy.

Immigration aside, his foreign policy will be more appealing to a unique yet vast cross section of people.

Donald has said he’d make a deal with anyone if its in America’s interest, including Iran, Assad, Russia, whomever. Does anyone doubt this? The only group he’s said he’d kill is ISIS and everyone is trying to do that already.

Donald said the Iraq war was a mistake and only a moron or liar cannot see this. Meanwhile Hillary voted for the authorization of the use of force in Iraq.  I am 100% certain that before Donald’s rise, Hillary was 100% certain that her Republican opponent would not be able to use Iraq against her.  How unlucky is she!  And no matter what back and forth statements Donald made pre-2003, he was not a public official and did not cast a vote to obliterate an innocent nation and help spawn groups like ISIS…as Hillary did.

 

3) Donald has eschewed all monies from all usual suspects: the lobbies, corporations, rich jerks and special interest groups that always twist our foreign and domestic policies to their desire at the public expense. Donald will continue to state this against Hillary, who is one the most elite-money entrenched candidates in American history.

I have never seen anyone piss off Wall Street, The Kochs, Liberals, and Establishment Media at the same time and succeed at doing it. The more his message of financial independence is spread, the more people will gravitate to him in the general. He gets to appear as the first legitimate anti-establishment candidate in a long time while Hillary appears as THE MOST establishment candidate available. No billionaire could ever be so lucky.

4) Donald does not have Hillary’s baggage. He is a business man and no matter what statements he made in the past, he can always explain them somehow. He has no voting record unlike Hillary and can trot out decades of records from both Hillary and Bill. I bet NAFTA and free trade gets talked about a lot in the coming months. All Hillary can do is complain and say he has no experience in government affairs or mock him.

It is kind of like Obama in 08 – Barack had been around for such a short period that there wasn’t a record to throw against him and the whole “no experience” complaint does not hold water against a charismatic speaker, which both Obama and Trump are.

5)Pro-choice/Pro Gay Rights – I don’t know if Donald has said anything about these issues during this campaign but I don’t care if he has. Donald Trump is not against abortion or gay rights. I would not believe that he has ever cared to be against those positions.

He will be the first GOP candidate that gets to appeal to the broad section of the left for which pro-choice/pro-gays is non-negotiable. The GOP base is not voting for a Clinton so Donald loses nothing with a socially liberal position and gains everything. His socially liberal lifestyle gives him an ability to siphon away alot of voters in the middle or on the left who may like his business background. I know women who like many things about the GOP but would never vote Republican because of their pro-life or anti-gay positions. Trump is not making this mistake and it will undercut a longstanding loyal portion of the Democratic base.

6) Melania Trump. We Americans don’t often base our opinions on real substance after having analyzed both candidates and creating pro/con lists. No, it is more a beauty pageant or popularity contest for many Americans.

One of the most appealing stories about a potential Trump presidency is his wife. They will trot her out as often as possible during the general election. Melania is an immigrant who grew up poor in Soviet-era housing in Eastern Europe. She appears to be sufficiently nice and sweet yet able to defend herself. And she is knock-down beautiful.

The story of a girl going from such humble beginnings to First Lady of White House is pretty darn cool to anyone with an immigrant background. In this country, this is ALOT of people. Inspiring even if its only through marriage and not just inspiring to Americans. It would be inspiring to many people around the world. In a way, her life story and career success along with this enforces a notion that in America, dreams can come true. That we are a nation of built from all kinds of people, that we love all kinds of people, and that any kind of person may one day find themselves in the highest of echelons in America. At least this is what will be sold by Team Trump.

With Hillary, it’s slick Willy Clinton and no matter what message Team Clinton sells, everyone knows or thinks that he will use every free moment to hit on any woman he meets.

The beauty pageant portion of his contest goes hands down to Mr. Trump and his beauty pageant-winning wife with humble immigrant roots.

Team Trump has a lot going for them right now. I am kind of stunned that what I thought impossible just a few months ago appears inevitable.

When I add up all the factors…even subjectively for this socially liberal atheist from a muslim country who is married to a hispanic woman and has many muslims in his family, I think Donald will win.

In November, I believe the perceptions of the electorate will be:

Donald is better than Hillary on the economy.

Donald will make foreign policy deals in America’s interest and Hillary is more of the same foreign policy.

Donald would tell any portion of the establishment to shove it up their ass. Hillary is the establishment.

Hillary has too many scandals.

Donald will not waste time on an abortion/gay culture war so nothing is gained by voting Democrat.

Donald’s wife is much more enjoyable to listen to and look at than Bill Clinton…x 10000

President Trump is coming. Hold on to your britches and get ready.

Stop Wasting Your Vote

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“Stop Wasting Your Vote!!!” has been told to me over and over again in the last few years. It’s because I am a write-in kind of guy. Friends and colleagues tell me I live in a battleground state and that I must help prevent the hated blues or reds from winning the election. It falls on deaf ears.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to take part in this grand charade. I used to believe that voting for my preferred party was essential to preventing the other idiots from ruining things. I know I am not alone. I doubt anyone would be able to count the times they’ve heard, read, or thought the phrase “lesser of two evils” as it pertains to politicians. I know I cannot.

We vote for our party even though we are aware of the horrible skeletons our candidates have in their past. Whether it is the receipt of hidden payments from mega-corps or the use of public resources for personal benefit, being an openly corrupt politician does not prevent anyone from getting elected if they can portray themselves, for a few months in an election year, as a lesser evil than their opponent.

This is the American people’s fault. Not the politicians or awful media.

Everyone knows that voting the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. But when election season rolls around, everyone forgets their distaste for politicians and seemingly resumes a quadrennial job as a political cheerleader, spouting whatever campaign slogan that has been provided and ignoring all negatives. This continues primary after primary after primary…general election after general election after general election…forever…the lesser of two evils. No one seems to realize or care that by continuing this behavior, they will one day die having spent their entire life only voting for evil.

In my humble opinion, that is what I call wasting your vote.

Elections are not horse races. We normal people don’t get paid on a ticket for picking a winner. Never acquiesce your vote to who you think has the best chance to win and never vote for the lesser of two evils. Your vote is sacred. It is your only real measure of control over your government. Your only chance of putting people in power who’d make the world a better place. Don’t sell it out. Only vote for whoever you truly believe in. Even if it means you must write-in your friend, your coach, your professor, your boss, your employee, your spouse, your parent, your mentor, or some person you’ve known about. Vote for someone honest. Value integrity more than ideology.

These corrupt political parties do not deserve your support. Blindly supporting them despite their flaws only ensures their behavior will never improve. Withdrawing your support from either party and seeking out honest candidates would, at worst, finally incentivize both parties to improve their behavior and start holding their members accountable. At best, we might actually find there are plenty of honest Americans throughout this great land who could do the job better than the red and blue snakes we have been electing.

I am asking you to try it. To vote for whomever your heart believes in without compromise. If only just one time in your life, be bold enough to not vote for evil. This way, when you die, you will have the comfort of knowing that you voted for good at least once.

The Next Lockout – Flip The Script

Every few years, one sports league or another undergoes a strike or a lockout. Simply put, a strike is when the players refuse to honour their contracts and a lockout is when the owners do the same. Both are done to garner leverage with the other side and improve the terms of the current structure to their benefit.

But the next time the owners of a league lockout the players (not a strike), the players should realise the golden opportunity the greed of the owners has provided them and turn the tables. How? Just play anyways.

Sports is a unique product. It does not take a high-tech factory, inventory delivery systems and an army of office workers to make this product. It only requires a location, a ball and players who are willing to play. The most difficult aspect would be organising the players to take such initiative without infighting.

Imagine the scenario. Personally, I think the NBA would be best suited for this so let’s use them in a hypothetical. What always happens is pretty simple: the owners lockout the players and the players (and owners) sit idle while terms are renegotiated.

But why should the players sit idle? It’s not as if they do not know how to play basketball without an owner above them and they would not even have to create teams. They could agree for initial/temporary purposes to form teams in accordance with their NBA rosters. Nor would they need to use NBA arenas. They can play anywhere whether it be a free park or a rented gymnasium.

If the players comprising the Oklahoma City Thunder intended to play a game against the players comprising the Golden State Warriors at a rented gym in Oakland, people would show up and pay for entry. If they could reasonably guarantee a modest schedule, they could sell broadcasting rights to whomever, even a YouTube channel, to show their pseudo-NBA games. They would indeed have to front the costs of these games and their own travel to the opposing team’s city but would quickly recoup the money with tickets sold and eventually broadcasting rights. And since none of that money would be siphoned off by NBA owners and execs, it would likely be able to more than reimburse the players for their initial cost outlays relatively quickly.

If the NBAPA, which has more than $100M in assets, put together a three-month schedule and small playoff for its players based on last year’s rosters, the owners would fold faster than we could imagine. The owners would not see this as a farcical exercise but rather the early beginnings of a competing league from which they have no ownership or power. We may look on it as novelty to see Lebron James and the faux-Cavs playing Joakim Noah and the faux-Bulls at a rented gym in Chicago but the owners would only see it as a legitimate threat to their power and the NBA itself. And the owners would know that while they may be playing in small gyms on a YouTube channel now, it could quickly turn into much larger arenas with major broadcasters if allowed to continue.

Does any person in America care whether the owners take part in the game? Of course not. If you gave us a game with the same players, we would watch and the owners know this. If they dared to let the lockout continue, they would only see the competing pseudo-league become more structured, more organised and more profitable over time. And the competing league would have all the stars the old league would be missing.

All it would take is some unity and initial financial sacrifice from already wealthy athletes. Leagues with wealthy unions like the NBA may be able to cover those outlays themselves without any further contributions or costs to players. They could arrange these pseudo teams into a single-entity league owned by the NBAPA. It would be the first league structure, albeit extremely modest at its beginning, owned in its entirety by labor.

Refs and scorekeepers can be hired and coaches designated by each team. Eventually and if the owners continue the lockout for too long, the players could seek to make the structure permanent, devising mechanisms for players transfers, free agency and new additions similar to other leagues. And once permanent the old NBA would be dead and the owners SOL.

The athletes just need to show up when a game is scheduled and play the game they’ve been playing their whole lives.

This is what any unified group of players facing a lockout (and whom are wealthy enough to pay for a flight and hotel) should do. If the owners lock em out, play anyways. Steal the entire league from right under their greedy noses.

That’d be awesome.

Qatar 2022 – The Whiny and Hypocritical US Sports Media Is Driving Me Crazy

A quick(er) rant.

The amount of contrived indignation on this topic is incredible. Since the announcement of Qatar 2022 (and Russia 2018) was made, the U.S. sports media has produced a non-stop barrage of articles complaining about every aspect of the decision. Other than the initial disappointment of having to wait longer for a World Cup in the US, I absolutely do not care that FIFA awarded the World Cup to Qatar or Russia. Rather, I’m sick of reading whiny articles about it. For both but particularly Qatar 2022.

Some of the complaints we read about Qatar daily:

1) The bribes and shady dealings.

I don’t like bribes or shady deals. Anywhere. But I’m not going to pretend bribes aren’t the way FIFA, the Olympics, UEFA, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, AFC and CAF (and U.S. Congress) have always been doing things. Nor would I dare pretend that taking the World Cup from Qatar (or Russia) would accomplish anything. We Americans behave in the same way. Remember the Salt Lake Olympics? The investigations around it also implicated Atlanta 1996. Remember Chuck Blazer? He was made in America and was instrumental in arranging USA 1994. He and his co-horts didn’t get FIFA to bring the World Cup to a country without a soccer league because of their charm. They struck back-room deals like everyone else. Then they set themselves up to profit off the World Cup as much as possible. Sometimes these crooks get busted by authorities (see recent developments or Italian football history) but most often they don’t.

And from what many gather, the United States Soccer Federation, Soccer United Marketing, Major League Soccer, their commingled shell corps and a select few people are behaving in a very similar manner. I would be delighted if our media would spend just a moment looking at those within our own house with the same vigor. There has been too much bold moral positioning against far away foreigners by a domestic sports media engaging in ostrich-like behavior on a lot of topics.

2) Qatar’s slave labor.

There are those who’ve written we should boycott the World Cup because of this. Boycott the World Cup??? This is an absurd idea. Only hurtful to American soccer and for nothing more than irrational and hypocritical grandstanding. To be clear, I don’t support slave labor but if anyone has noticed, Qatar is a U.S. ally. These labor practices have been going on for a long time not just in Qatar but in a lot of countries that are U.S. allies or regimes put in place/kept in place by our government. A lot of the goods you probably used today were built by a labor force who has minimal to no rights.

US Central Command has a base in Qatar. The same labor probably built the some of the buildings our own military is using. So if you care about improving the lives of slave labor in Qatar or anywhere, start with calling our own elected officials and complaining to them. Don’t complain to FIFA about it. This is non-sense that ignores the real causes of these dynamics.

To pretend that the US Men’s National Team or American soccer fans should carry this baggage without any real-world context is ridiculous. Seemingly blind, our sports media is talking about stadiums being built by people who’ve been suffering for decades in a close ally with US approval. And since we are unlikely to stop being allies with Qatar (and their oil) for a long time, these people will likely continue to suffer long after 2022. Everyone of these articles should be addressed to the U.S. government, not FIFA or even Qatar. Or rather, they should be addressed to the apathetic American people who continuously elect the same brands of politicians who continuously behave in the same way with regard to our foreign policy throughout the world. This one, the slave labor complaint, is nothing more than a bunch of self-righteous U.S. media pots calling a kettle black. And it’s an American maintained, armed and protected kettle.

So no, I do not expect FIFA to give a hoot about how Qatar builds those stadiums like I didn’t expect IOC to give a hoot about how China built its stadiums for the Beijing Olympics. I expect FIFA to organize a soccer tournament in a stable nation with hotels and move on to the next one. In fact, I hope FIFA gives that very next one, the 2026 World Cup, to a country with an awful human rights record and which has been in continuous war since 1941: The United States of America. (If only Gulati and our self-righteous media would shut their pious mouths)

3) Winter World Cup:  I don’t care that pompous Europeans or whomever will have to adjust their league schedule for two months for the first time ever. There are a lot of countries which due to weather play Spring to Fall. Finally, for once, these countries will not have to adjust their schedule as they have been doing every four years since their leagues’ creation. Basically, one group has always been asked to adjust and does so happily and now another group is being asked to adjust ONE TIME and they are acting apocalyptic about it. Good grief, what a bunch of selfish jerks. Once in 100 years is not that big a deal. Get over it. Stop acting like the world is falling apart.

And for all those people whining about the World Cup competing with NFL/NBA/NCAA, Qatar is far away. In November, the time difference will be 8 hours, meaning the games will be on in the morning or noon-ish. They will not be on at the same time as any marquee US sports. The noon NCAA games are mediocre and the NFL reserves marquee games for 4pm and primetime. When Qatar 2022 happens, it will likely be the only time in our lives where we will get to wake up, watch amazing World Cup soccer and then immediately watch a full slate of great American pro and college sports . We are talking quintuple and sixtuple-headers of great soccer, basketball and football.

Qatar 2022…CAN’T FREAKING WAIT!

Russia too!

List of Questions Regarding MLS and USSF

1)    Who is the CEO/Chairman of the Board of MLS LLC?  Bloomberg lists it is as Richard A. Peddie, the former CEO of MLSE (Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment). http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/private/snapshot.asp?privcapId=4312581 I’ve asked Mr. Peddie on twitter but he simply blocked me without saying no. He was asked by several people over a couple of days and he continued to ignore the question. Then, @sisusoccer (an anonymous account, to me) asked and Mr. Peddie did go on record with a quick “no”: https://twitter.com/SisuSoccer/status/575467792796807168 But Mr. Peddie would not respond to any follow up questions about when he left the position or who is the current CEO.  Also, former USSF president and lifetime director of the USSF Foundation, Alan Rothenberg is named per this site http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/alan-rothenberg/136277457.aspx as chairman of MLS LLC. Is Mr. Rothenberg Chairman of the Board/CEO or has he ever been? None of Mr. Rothenberg’s or Mr. Peddie’s online profiles disclose any employment for MLS LLC or related companies (other than USSF and MLSE, of course).

2)    Who are the majority owners of MLS LLC? I believe it to be The Anschutz Corp, The Kraft Group, and Hunt Sports LLC and maybe a few others: we know the teams are essentially franchises and MLS contracts with all players, parties, and has authority to make all major decisions. The exact structure is discussed fairly well in the first half of the decision from Fraser vs MLS (see end). Though from 2002, I can find no evidence the fake-competition model has changed nor the original majority owners.

3)    If the structure outlined in Fraser is accurate, it would mean the new entrants are transferring ownership of their teams (private corps in NASL) to MLS LLC for a right to be in the corporate umbrella. And they are doing this while also paying entrance fees? Since entry fees are relatively high, what promises of future returns are being made to these new entrants? Since the larger TV deals are mostly locked in for some time and since the attendance figures appear over-inflated in cases (easily proved by photo), are they indeed relying on “suckering” new entrants, similar to a ponzi scheme and as discussed by the soccernomics team?

4)    What is MLS Partners LLC (active)? http://www.corporationwiki.com/p/2espfd/mls-partners-llc  Originally created in Delaware on 2/19/2014 but also recorded in California. I can find no news or explanation about this corporation which appears to be owned, at least in part, by MLS LLC. I have called and emailed people within MLS to ask but they’ve given me no response. I wondered whether it was disclosed to the union during the CBA negotiation so I called and emailed several people within the union, including Bob Foose and John Newman, but received no response. Not even “it’s a non-factor”. Why let me stir a pot at all and why not tell me to buzz off?

5)   What is MLS Consulting (inactive)? http://www.corporationwiki.com/New-York/New-York/mls-consulting-inc/73911463.aspx which was owned and/or operated by Alan Rothenberg and Douglas Quinn, former president of SUM and former President of DallasFC  There was a third related corporation, also inactive, called “De Operating a Professional Soccer Team.” (I’m not kidding) However, for some reason, I cannot find any of the links I had been previously viewing. What are these sister/shell corps owned and/or operated by MLS or USSF officers or them together? How many are there?

6)    What is the exact nature of the lawsuit filed only last December by USSF against the USMNT player’s association? http://dockets.justia.com/docket/illinois/ilndce/1:2014cv09899/304155 It appears there was an arbitrated dispute regarding national team player images that was decided in favor of the USMNT and USSF has sued to undo the arbiter’s decision. This legal dispute has rendered the USMNTPA broke per the reports filed with the Department of Labor http://kcerds.dol-esa.gov/query/getOrgQry.do .

7)    Where is the 2010 CBA? If it is never disclosed and no one has a copy of it, how are contracts being negotiated? The player agents or any lawyer for a player must certainly have a copy they could disclose. Otherwise, how can terms be decided in a uniform manner?

8)   How much money, exactly, has MLS LLC and its wholly-owned subsidiaries received in public funds? Unlike other sports leagues comprised of multiple individual corporations, MLS LLC is one giant corporation potentially worth about or more than $3B (estimated guess from team values per Forbes). Yet it has received $1.5B in public assistance for its stadiums. https://twitter.com/neildemause/status/580709905390284801 Was almost half the corporation’s value derived via welfare? And this welfare-fattenned beast is actually one of the largest sports corporations around. Americans have surprisingly little control over something for which they’ve paid half.

9)   What are the real attendance figures or a legitimate estimate? I recently saw a photo of a Houston-Dallas game at BBVA Compass Stadium. https://twitter.com/EmptySeatsPics/status/594328707516506112  The stadium was clearly less than half full – indisputable. I estimate 40% full. The announced attendance was 19,975 (20K) but the stadium capacity is 22K. Total bullshit. The attendance figures are undoubtedly used to persuade entrants and sponsors. Is this more evidence of ponzi-scheme-like behavior or just number fudging?

10) As a former USSF president (Rothenberg), lifetime director of the USSF Foundation and CONCACAF VP (and if he is/was the CEO of MLS LLC), is this not a conflict of interest prevented by USSF or FIFA rules? With Garber as well, who is a current board member of USSF. Is Mr. Garber permitted to vote on all matters pertaining to division one? Including which corporations/entities should be allowed access?

11) USSF is sanctioned by FIFA. Regardless of the directorships, what are the FIFA rules regarding favorable FA treatment of individual teams/corporations? Are MLS and USSF allowed to collude so openly with no administrative recourse to other entities? IMO, the need for the NY Cosmos or top NASL teams to be allowed a shot at D1 competition is incontestable.

My odyssey with MLS started just a few months ago so I am trying to catch up to everyone on a lot of things. I give great thanks to all the free-market/open system advocates out there for all the guidance, data, info, history and news they provide. They actually care about the future of American soccer. Thank you.

In my opinion as well, an objective analysis shows this company is harmful to American soccer. It’s a centrally controlled, anti free investment, anti management freedom, dictatorial communist system which only ensures the development of American soccer will always lag behind the superior systems of the world. I suspect it is designed in this manner not to sustain growth but to ensure that any value or wealth generated by the sport of soccer within North America is captured by a select few individuals. And to achieve this monopoly on the future of soccer, it does so with disregard of the negative effects such a closed, imprisoned system has on the potential development of the players or overall sport within America.

Though I have been amassing data and info, MLS Media members are for the most part ignoring me completely. I think they view me as an irrelevant nuisance. Admittedly, those I did speak to were incredibly polite (ty!) but none would answer any questions. I will add more to this list as I go along and continue seeking answers.

If you are able to assist with any of these, a lot of people would be greatly appreciative. Also, I personally think it would make a good story for any intrepid sports journalists out there tired of reporting scores and injuries.

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EDIT: I have been advised that the photos cited in No. 9 were taken early and that the game did fill up further. If anyone has good photos of game crowds at their height, please share them with @TheMehdiMan. I am also familiar that “tickets sold” often exceed attendance. However, for this to be plausible in an example like the HOU/DAL game, there would have to be approximately 9000 empty seats which were purchased. These numbers seem inflated and deserve questioning. Also, unlike other leagues and teams whom most likely also inflate attendance figures, MLS uses these numbers to lure new entrants into the league, who are paying large entry fees and, ostensibly, assigning ownership of their teams to MLS LLC.

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MLS’ franchise, faux-competition structure, as discussed by the Court in Fraser vs. Major League Soccer:

Fraser - MLS structure 1

Fraser - MLS structure 2

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Soccer United Marketing…I have not yet even started with you.