Outrage hasn’t stopped national anthem protests at NFL games. However, one Louisiana politician thinks that maybe money can.
In a written statement Monday, Louisiana state Rep. Kenny Havard said he was willing to pull state funding and tax breaks from the New Orleans Saints over the decision of 10 members of the Saints to sit during the national anthem on Sunday.
“Disrespecting our national anthem and flag in the name of social injustice is the highest form of hypocrisy,” the Republican said in a statement Monday, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
“I believe in the right to protest, but not at a taxpayer-subsidized sporting event,” he added. “Do it on your own time. There are plenty of disabled children, elderly and veterans in this state that would appreciate the money.”
It isn’t just Havard who’s talking about significant changes to the Saints’ state funding: “State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, has also requested the Saints’ state benefits be reviewed by the Legislature’s Senate and House budget committees as a result of the players’ protest,” the Times-Picayune reported. “Hodges is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which oversees state finances.”
A recent analysis found that of the Saints $1.5 billion valuation, $165 million is attributable to “public funding, tax breaks and incentives” given by the state to Saints owner Tom Benson.
And that’s not all: NBC Sports notes that neither the Saints nor New Orleans’ other professional team, the NBA’s Pelicans, pay rent for the use of their respective venues, both of which are publicly owned. In the Saints case, the state just paid $85 million to upgrade the Superdome. However, Saints ownership gets to keep all of the money from concessions, tickets and parking.
Now, there are a whole lot of thorny issues involved in using state funding to determine how organizations make their players behave, and it’s a slippery slope that any conservative ought to be incredibly wary about stepping out onto. If the principle of the thing isn’t enough to sway you, just remember that this precedent can and will be used against conservatives, particularly in large liberal states like California and New York.
That said, government subsidies for professional sports have been out of control for quite some time, and the evidence indicates that most of them don’t end up benefiting taxpayers. One wonders whether Reps. Havard and Hodges are using the protests as cover to popularize a move that sports aficionados would otherwise be highly critical of.
Either way, it points out the hypocritical dichotomy of the NFL’s American flag protests: For a league so willing to let its players demonstrate invective against the American flag, the owners are certainly not averse to taking money from the government. And the people who end up paying for it — involuntarily, may I add — are the same fans they’re willing to outrage.
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