A tax on pro ball leagues may save our public schools.
|A PRO BALL LEAGUE TAX TO SAVE OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS
My fellow Americans:
As a singer/songwriter whose new single "Bowl You Over (Rock Your World)" celebrates the great American sport football, I am supportive of both public music / arts education and also of the college and professional levels of organized sport. Sadly (and unnecessarily) the two things now seem to be at odds.
One of the great losses of our recent economic challenges is to our public schools across the United States. Music and other arts programs are being cut from the budgets, schools are overcrowded and understaffed. Yet organized sport at the high school level remains a priority. This is because high school athletes get college scholarships, fueling the college ball industry, and the great college athletes go on to populate the pro ball leagues. Without organized sport at the high school level, the professional sports leagues would collapse and with them so many associated industries, such as clothing and home gear manufacture, food vendors, broadcasters and so on. Clearly there are too many good people whose lives depend on pro ball who would be hurt were high schools to abandon organized sport. It is also said that sports are often the only way some kids can get into college, and to deny them this would be unfair. And I agree. On the other hand, the music industry doesn’t recruit its talent from high school or college band classes, nor does Hollywood recruit from high school or college theater. Clearly, organized sport is the more productive choice for our society. There is almost no choice at all.
But there is an option to funding one at the expense of the other: I suggest that since the professional athletic leagues depend so heavily on sports at the high school level that they should pay for it. Let the major leagues pay special taxes that go right to the schools (as federal subsidies) to pay for the gear, the coaches, the buses and gasoline and other expenses. This way the school boards could allocate their sports budgets (along with some surplus) back into the arts and sciences, into building more schools and hiring more teachers, serving better food and supplying better books; not only on the high school level but all the way down to the elementary or middle public school levels, where budget cuts continue to wreak havoc.
Those who object might say that the major leagues will only pass the expenses along to the fans as higher ticket prices. I would say, firstly, that the fans are the ones for whom the entire industry is designed, it is around the fans that the industry revolves, it is the fans who benefit most from the high schools’ investment in young athletes’ futures; why shouldn’t the fans be ready to pay a little more? It could be easily argued that we fans have had it too good for too long. Secondly, I would say a price increase to the fans wouldn’t even be necessary. To pay the league tax, the leagues could charge the ball teams an additional league fee. Should one cry foul that this would strain the ball clubs, let them get some of the money from the players; just as laborers and Teamsters pay dues from their salaries for the benefits of their unions. Should one claim that these young players shouldn’t have to shoulder that burden, I would ask, Why shouldn’t they? They are the ones earning astronomical salaries, and it is most often as a result of the benefits they enjoyed from organized sport at the high school level. Why shouldn’t they give a little back to support the next generation of players, to keep their own industry alive?
Some would argue that only a few star players in each league earn the truly enormous salaries and that most players are conservative earners. Also, some leagues spend much more than others on players’ salaries. To this I would say the dues extracted from the players’ salaries would be commensurate with their earnings. I suggest that a straight percentage would be fair. And how much could that be? In 2009 the NFL salary cap was raised to $128 million per team, with all teams collectively paying roughly $4.1 billion. The league’s independent revenue, according to sources, is almost an additional $1 billion. A CONTRIBUTION OF JUST ONE PERCENT (1%) OF THIS $5 BILLION TOTAL WOULD PUMP $50 MILLION INTO OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS YEARLY. And that’s from the NFL alone.
Not only can they easily afford it, I would go on to say that the pro ball leagues are the only ones who should reasonably be asked to pay. Why should the taxes of someone who has no children and no interest in pro sports have to pay for all this while those who earn fortunes from it contribute only in the general sense? Why should budding artists and musicians have to lose out on their own education and the chances to better their own future? Why is our society ready to settle for a generation of undereducated, malnourished children while one particular industry thrives? Why indeed, when a remedy is so close at hand?
Professional sports are vital to our economy, to our way of life, and to the pride and identity of nations all over the world. But when it comes at the expense of the educational system we rely upon to keep our society great, does this not rob the sports industry of its honor? What are we left with but corporations who sacrifice the health and well-being of their own players (steroid use, increased nervous system injury and cardiovascular failure are only a few such personal abuses) in order to keep alive a billion-dollar revue stream from merchandise and broadcast rights? And doesn’t this corrupt, self-serving attitude trickle down from the power elite to any player who would balk at giving back to the community in this way? Is one single percent really so much to ask, or too much to give? Even the very sports fan whose money and dedication fuel the entire industry is also to blame for failing to insist that the leagues they support do something more to help us recover our public educational system, the same system those leagues have richly harvested at others’ expense.
And it is not a question of sports fans versus non-fans. For there is another vital reason the leagues should pay for the high school sports programs they value so highly and need so dearly; these programs are being cut from public schools across the country, just as music and art programs already have been. This league tax is not simply a good idea, it is a must if the professional leagues want to keep their talent (and thus economic) resources plentiful. Beyond plenty, it would seem a question of simply keeping the entire North American sports industry alive or allowing it to perish from the ground up. And this is something I think we all agree cannot be allowed to happen.
In the United States we are a nation of laws, and such a tax would require the passing of such a law. But must decency and fairness and a sense of responsibility be institutionalized and mandated? If just one major sports league (the NFL for example) could put this together without a law being passed (thus circumventing the long delay of the legislative process) it would set an example the other North American leagues, and later the entire world, would follow. It would demonstrate how great, and how American, our great American pastimes truly are; and how great America still is.
And, as I illustrated, it would put $50 million a year into our public schools, to make sure America stays great in the years to come. We simply cannot afford to ignore this remedy.
This is a big idea and will cost many rich people and their even-richer corporate masters many millions of dollars. As such, it will be met with great opposition. A champion is required to take this idea forward; someone with the clout, power or recognition to bring this plea to light. We need somebody with ties to the worlds of sports, celebrity, politics or all three; or perhaps a team of champions from these professions. Pass this open letter on, forward it to interested parties, and I know we will find our champion. Send a copy to your government representatives with your support. Consider it, discuss it, refine it, define it. Perhaps you are that champion; or perhaps like me you just want to help save our schools, our sports and, with them, our futures.
Fletcher Rhoden, Fletcher Rhoden.com