Issue of the Week

BuytheJets.com

By John Crotty

In late August, BuytheJets.com was launched with the purpose of creating and submitting a fan based bid for the NY Jets. If successful, it would be one of two publicly-owned teams in the NFL (the other is the Green Bay Packers). But since the NFL has prohibited public ownership since 1960, the task ahead is formidable.

An Unfair Monopoly
Congress, by virtue of the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, has granted a limited antitrust exemption to the NFL. Because of Congress' protection of this monopoly, fans have suffered - particularly over the last 20 years. Owners have taken advantage of the guaranteed broadcast revenue stream made possible by Congress, and the monopoly pricing structure made possible by a tight rationing of the number of franchises available. As a result, cities have been lured into bidding wars against each other. In addition to these broader misdeeds, fans are gouged by annual ticket price increases and higher taxation as a result of state and local governments' funding requirements created by keeping a particular franchise in the region. The monopolies use of public funds for their own profit is a separate, though equally disconcerting matter.

BuytheJets.com was created because we believe that making thousands of Jet fans owners would be an effective way to correct the current relationship between the NFL and its fans. The NFL is a monopoly and as such, dictates the behavior of their organization, often to the direct detriment of the consumer/fans. The Green Bay Packers are a publicly held team and have a workable management structure, which a fan-owned Jets team would seek to emulate. This structure is a threat to many of the League's negotiating and price gouging tactics. For example, if fans were to be a majority owner, the threat of "Ownership" voting to leave the region based on a stadium deal becomes preposterous. The current struggle highlights a bigger question: Who benefits by the existence of an unregulated revenue maximizing monopoly?

The answer is a few ultra-rich owners. Leaders and economists who have debated the question of monopolies have all held that, except in limited cases (though not Microsoft's), the overall economy is better served by fair and open competition. The benefits of a few will not outweigh the good of the whole.

The Solution
There are two ways to reverse many of the destructive effects this monopoly has created. 1) The Government (e.g. Congress, the Department of Justice or Attorney General) should repeal/revoke the NFL's anti-trust exemption. Several New York area political leaders (Sen. Schumer; Reps. Crowley, Maloney, Nadler, Weiner; Speaker Vallone and Comptroller McCall) have written to express their desire that the process be opened up to include the fan-based bid. 2) The NFL should change their rules in order to accept fan based ownership in New York and other locales as franchises come up for sale. Support for the effort seems to be growing constantly and more elected officials are writing the NFL in support of our bid.

Among those who have urged the NFL to open up the process are members of both the Congressional and Senate Judiciary Committees. Their opinion is compelling: How can the NFL tell those who have the direct ability to review and repeal their exemption that their opinion doesn't matter?

All of these officials have shown the great leadership we should expect from our representatives. They believe, as President Teddy Roosevelt (another New Yorker) did, that "Our aim should not be to punish the men who have made a big corporation successful merely because they have made it big and successful, but to exercise such thoroughgoing supervision and control over them as to insure their business skill being exercised in the interest of the public and not against the public interest." Public ownership of the Jets is the public's interest.

John Crotty is one of the co-founders of Buythejets.com


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