I grew up in
Los Angeles and have been a lifelong Dodgers fan. It was easy for me to
become a fan watching the consistently great play of Garvey, Lopes, Russell
and Cey, but more importantly, like most fans I love the teams from my
childhood and have followed those teams throughout my life. My dad is from
Pittsburgh and still roots for the Steelers and Pirates even after 40 years
in LA, but our teams have become a strong second favorite. While all fans
love and support their teams, what responsibilities do the owners have to
the city and how does this apply to youth sports?
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In my opinion,
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own a sports franchise, profits cannot be the sole objective.
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
sports franchise is not like any other business; the team is owned as a
public trust. Certainly it is okay, even necessary, to run the team to make
a profit. However, that profit has to be reasonable given the underlying
economics of the community where the team is located. Anything more than a
modest profit would be a violation of the public trust granted to the owner.
failing to buy the Red Sox, the team Frank McCourt grew up loving and
wanting to own, he purchased the Dodgers in 2004. Since the McCourt Family
purchased the Dodgers for $430 million, mostly of debt, they have been
forced to consistently run the Dodgers solely as a business. Yet, the name
of the jersey isn’t “McCourt” it is “Los Angeles”. This single family, as
owner of the Dodgers, has been given the right to represent 12,000,000
people living in our city to the rest of the country and the world.
their three seasons of ownership, the McCourt Family has done everything
possible to increase revenues. They have substantially increased ticket and
concession prices every year. For the 2007 season they increased the price
of parking by 50% and continued their policy of overselling preferred
parking lots so that many who paid for parking had to move to other lots
instead of being able to park in the lot they paid for. The McCourts have
increased advertising revenue throughout the ball park by including ads
everywhere you look: the outfield wall, the turnstile to enter the stadium
and even above the urinals in the bathroom. In taking these actions, Forbes
Magazine estimates that the McCourts have increased the value of the Dodgers
by over $200 million to $632 million.
None of this
is bad if you love the McCourt Family, but it is terrible if you love the
Los Angeles Dodgers because it is a violation of the public trust. When you
own a sports franchise, after a reasonable profit, you have an obligation to
take care of the city to which the team belongs. Increasing the revenues is
a great thing to do when you also increase the costs in order to give the
city a winning team. There is no problem sucking every penny in potential
revenue from a city if you are also maximizing the amount that you’ll spend
to create a winner. There is no obligation to lose money, but there is an
implied covenant to give the fans something for their money. Failure to
provide a product commensurate with the revenue generated is a violation of
the public trust.
The McCourt family doesn’t care about the City of Los Angeles and they live
here as carpetbaggers supporting
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
They have consistently signed free agents years beyond their prime or play
youngsters years before
their prime. Signing Joe Torre is part of the McCourt façade of saying they want
to win simply so that fans continue to come to Dodgers Stadium and buy more
merchandise. Certainly not all owners are in the same financial position and
may not have an equal desire to win championships, but they should all know
that they cannot violate the public trust. Making money is great, but the
increased revenues should be used to support the team and the city instead
of buying a second home in Malibu for $33.5 million.
is true for all of us who participate in organizing and running youth
leagues: we’ve been given a public trust by the families in our communities
and we need to learn from the negative example set by the McCourt Family. I
have seen many times members on a board of directors for a league vote to
serve their own personal interest and that of their own children to the
detriment of the league as a whole. While we’re in charge of a league we
need to remember that it is imperative to create the best league possible
for all the families who participate. This means that we need to strive to
do better even if the kids aren’t visibly upset or complaining.
concept of public trust extends further to every coach or manager who
participates in a youth sports program. When you run a team, there is an
obligation to treat every child fairly and ensure that they each have a
positive experience. While this means different things for each child,
consistently favoring your own children to the detriment of others is in
violation of the trust given to you by the league and the community. There
are always lessons in sports and we need to all learn to respect the game
and the public trust given to us whether we’re running a league, coaching a
group of kids, or especially if we own the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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