For this obvious restraint of trade the league needs and has needed the blessing of the federal government in the form of an exemption from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. First secured in 1966 on the occasion of the merger of the AFL and the NFL, the exemption was granted on the condition of Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s promise that teams would not relocate, the idea being that if owners had the right to move teams from city to city they could blackmail local constituencies for millions in public financing. This is, of course, exactly what they’ve done, again and again, in the forty-five years since, to the tune of about $7 billion in taxpayer dollars. It’s unclear whether this figure includes sums like the $36 million paid by the Municipality of San Diego to Alex Spanos, patriarch of the Chargers, for empty seats after the city was forced to guarantee him revenue equivalent to an attendance of 60,000. To put that number in perspective, $36 millon is a little over six times the amount Spanos donated to 527 separate groups to help reelect George W. Bush in 2004, putting him in the GOP’s top five. It is also roughly one-tenth the subsidy demanded by Spanos’s son, Dean, currently team president, to, again, prevent a move to Los Angeles and San Antonio. “I don’t know how many cities are going to be willing to put up $400 or $500 million,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said of a possible relocation in light of San Diego’s dire financial situation. “But I take every city as a credible threat.”
And Squibb concludes his piece with this:
Most convincing of all is the simple fact that, at the very least, the American people have paid $7 billion in operating expenses for the privilege to watch football in the fall, and have not complained about the rising ticket prices or the thoroughly oppressive advertising included in the increasingly bullshit bargain. Instead, in the face of overwhelming evidence that the game is more dangerous and more profitable than ever before, the owners have decided that it is still not dangerous or profitable enough, and they have shut it down rather than hear otherwise. Those behind Scott Walker and the others like him have made a similar determination about the rights of American citizens. Collective bargaining, like collective ownership before it, is an unacceptable check on the flow of public monies into fewer and fewer private hands. History needs a push and our clients aren’t interested in being partners with your guys. In other words, Fuck You.
It should come as no surprise that I'm siding with the players in this particular labor dispute. The chief reason for my support of the unions is the categorical refusal by owners to open up their books to attempt to justify the additional $1 billion that want to skim off the top.