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Public Trust

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, owning a sports franchise comes with significant responsibilities and needs to be treated differently than a regular business. When you own a business, the goal of running that business is to maximize profits. However, when you own a sports franchise, profits cannot be the sole objective.

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Coach’s Corner, Continued

 
Owning a 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.

After 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.

During 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
 

their investment.  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.
 


The same 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.

This 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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Monthly
Trivia Test 
 

We’ve got great Trivia games for beginning to master SportsKids – try our “Half-Court Shot” Basketball Game and find the answers to these questions at the bottom.

 

1) With 72 wins, which team won the most games in a season?

A)      Lakers

B)      Bulls

C)      Bucks

D)      Knicks

 

2) Long before the movie “Top Gun”, which great scorer went by the nickname “Iceman”?

A)     Julius Erving

B)     Rick Barry

C)     Oscar Robertson

D)     George Gervin

 

3) With 346 steals in a season, which player had the greatest single year for theft?

A)     Alvin Robertson

B)     Michael Jordan

C)     John Stockton

D)     Don Buse

 

4) Who was the first woman college player inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame?

A)      Nancy Lieberman

B)      Lusia Harris

C)      Ann Myers

D)      Cheryl MilleB

 

There are trivia games in general sports, baseball, football, hockey, basketball and “Sports Math” in three different skill levels. Test your sports skills against kids around the world in the SportsKids Game Section.

  

Answers: (1) B  (2) D  (3) D   (4) B

 
Monthly
Sports Poll 
 

1)  Is owning a sports franchise a business or owned in trust for the city?

-     Business – the owner can do what they want

-     Public Trust – there is a duty to try and win

2)  Would you want Mark Cuban to own a team in your city?

-     Yes

-     No

3)  Do you feel youth league boards run the league fairly?

-     Yes

-     No

4)  Do coaches of teams you’re associated with favor their own kids?

-     Yes

-     No

 

Last month’s Poll results: 

1)  Should LeBron James have worn a Yankees cap at the Indians playoff game in Cleveland?

-     Yes (12.20%)

-     No (22.44%)

-     Who Cares (63.90%)

 

2)  Should fans in Cleveland…

-     Boycott Cavs games? (8.29%)

-     Boo LeBron? (13.17%)

-     Both A and B? (8.29%)

-     Take no action? (69.27%)

 

3)  Is it ever okay to wear the opposing teams fan gear to a live game?

-     Yes (39.51%)

-    No (60.49%)


 

Cast your vote on these and other sports polls at SportsKids.com