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Hail Mary: NFL May Actually -- Gasp! -- Pay For a Stadium To Win Back Fans

The NFL may be winning the strike with the players in the courts, but it's losing with the fans in the court of PR. How else to explain commish Roger Goodell's last-minute offer to help pay for a new stadium for the Vikings?

Yesterday, Goodell met with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and offered to pay an amount to be named later towards a proposed $1 billion stadium. It's Hail Mary Pass time for the NFL, because state funding for the stadium is going nowhere. There's only a week to go before the state legislature adjourns, and the proposal has yet to have a single hearing. This could be because many legislators have taken the surprisingly reasonable stand that they won't consider a new home for the Vikes until the state's $5.1 billion budget deficit is resolved.
Fiscal reality may have spurred this incipient outbreak of common sense, but that's rarely kept the taxpayer from getting stuck with the tab in the past. More than half of the NFL's 32 markets have built or renovated stadiums since 1997 with taxes covering an average of 62 percent of the costs. For decades, the NFL (and MLB and NBA and NHL ...) have been able to rely on fans to help them with their lobbying efforts. The NFL lockout appears to have changed that equation.

Owners out in the cold
A poll out today says 32 percent of fans blame the owners for the shutdown, while only 19 percent blame the players. The survey by the Suffolk University Political Research Center also shows the league is losing the sympathies of the all important young whippersnapper demographic. Nearly 40 percent of those 35-44 years old fault the billionaire owners, while just 28 percent of those 55-64 blame the millionaire players. (FYI, Democrats favored the players while Republicans split. Wedge issue?)

It does not help that the league is winning over the players in court. On Monday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the league and allowed it to continue to lockout the players. Although this was a good thing for the owners, it served as a reminder it is the owners who are preventing people from working. Despite all the rah rahing about an economic recovery, that is not the message to be putting out right now.

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