Jeffrey Loria should be banned from owning a sports franchise ever again. Twice he has owned baseball teams, and twice he has done his best to ruin baseball in those cities. First, as the owner of the Montreal Expos, he did his best to alienate baseball fans, slash payroll, beg for a new stadium, and then when that poor act failed, he claimed that baseball could not succeed in Montreal when in reality it could not succeed with him as the owner. As a result, in a sweetheart deal he ended up as owner of the Florida Marlins (since renamed to the Miami Marlins) and the Montreal Expos were taken over by MLB (led by Bud Selig) and then moved to Washington DC.
But Jeffrey Loria was not done shaking down taxpayers and screwing over fans of baseball teams. So far as the owner of the Marlins, his modus operendi has been to win a World Series every few years and then engage in a fire sale to slash payroll immediately afterward, teasing fans with good teams every once in a while followed by years of “rebuilding” where he pleads poverty while pocketing enough profits in a shady enough fashion to draw scrutiny from the SEC (no mean feat ). He has topped himself, though. Enough years of playing the poor act to the people of Dade County got him the taxpayer-funded stadium he was demanding, and in honor of the stadium, he inflated the team’s payroll to compete for an NL East title, and renamed the team to the Miami Marlins, adding kitchy uniforms in a quirky stadium. The attempt didn’t work, and so Loria (and his GM) did what they do best–bait and switch. Now that the taxpayers of Dade County, Florida have been burdened with billions of dollars of debt to pay for his stadium, he sold all the good players for a few spare parts, so that the team can be historically bad for years, all so he can make money without any problems. And all of this has been enabled by Bud Selig, whose job it is to make sure that the integrity of the game of baseball is preserved.
Jeff Loria wouldn’t know integrity if it hit him upside the back of the head with a baseball bat, robbed him of his ill-gotten gains, and left him battered and bruised on Biscayne Blvd trying to get back to his mansion, or to the airport to get out of Miami for good. And yet Bud Selig, charged with defending the integrity of baseball, allows a crony to continue to make bad deals for baseball in Miami, and to own teams in good standing after showing his complete lack of integrity or concern for winning, which hurts Selig’s own vulnerable credibility. Clearly, by standing in support of Loria as an owner, Selig at least tacitly endorses his corrupt dealing, which is not only immoral, but also possibly illegal, and which has drawn scrutiny as fraudulent . This sort of corruption places Loria as perhaps the most corrupt owners in a corrupt business.
Loria’s corrupt dealing is a textbook example of the crony capitalism of sports in our modern world. Wealthy businessmen run up huge debts to gain the funding necessary to buy sports franchises. Heavily leveraged, they seek to market those teams aggressively, rent out endless programing and then demand taxpayers fund new stadiums for their own personal profit, or else the teams will leave to a desperate city willing to run up massive debts to own some fleabit sports franchise. Here we see the essence of crony capitalism–wealthy elites take advantage of their connections and make personal profit off of taxpayers. The boom in the worth of sports franchises in many sports is directly related to taxpayer funded stadiums. (It should be noted, in fairness, that this is not true of every team. The Dallas Cowboys, as much as I loathe them, did pay for their new stadium without taxypayer funds, though they are a very rare example of a team that has avoided cheating their own locals.)
In a day and age where nations, states, and municipalities face horrendous debt burdens often closely connected to pensions and entitlements, and where necessary infrastructure maintenance, replacement, and construction is overlooked because of budgetary constraints, it is simply inexcusable that there should be a golden era of taxpayer funded stadiums that serve as cash cows for wealthy business owners. Truly we have more pressing needs for limited taxpayer funds than in building a new stadium every 20 or 30 years for multimillionaires and billionaires who own sports franchises. In order to stop this from happening, there needs to be stronger action taken against thieves and cheats who try to rob cities blind while refusing to meet their side of the bargain in providing winning teams (or at least competitive teams) for their local communities. Who will take such action?