I’m a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. I grew up in Pittsburgh, a rabid sports town with championship teams in hockey, baseball, and football. Pittsburgh fans are loyal to a fault. Each time I visit my hometown, I notice more people wearing sports memorabilia than in any other city, although New York may be an exception. While in Europe for the past three weeks, I see people from all over the world wearing baseball caps emblazoned with the New York Yankees logo.
I bring up because “Dan Rooney, who succeeded his father and Steelers founder, Art Sr., as team president and rose to become one of the most powerful and beloved owners in sports, died Thursday at the age of 84.
One thing I dislike about professional sports is tax-payer-funded stadiums. The Atlanta Braves built a new stadium using money from taxpayers who did not want to pay for a professional sports team stadium, especially since professional football is a multi-billion dollar business.
We’re often told how such stolen money is an investment in the community. If this is true, then why not let people invest their money volunarily in the project and pay them a return on their investment.
My good friend Jerry Bowyer, a Pittsburgh resident, and a like-minded advocate of free market economics, describes an encounter he had with Dan Rooney over the construction of a new stadium.
In 1997, I had a fight with Dan Rooney. He was supporting a referendum to raise taxes on the region which would finance, among other things, a new stadium for the [Pittsburgh] Steelers. I was campaigning against the tax hike (to refresh your memory, the tax hike referendum failed in all 11 counties and the stadiums were constructed with a combination of more private money and using existing taxes rather than new taxes). One of the debates took place at WQED studios, and Dan walked up to me and said, “They told me you were a liar, but now I’ve seen it for myself.”