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The NFL owners’ surprising argument in favor of unions

OK, so we all know that a labor dispute between millionaires and billionaires, as the halting negotiations for a new agreement between the NFL’s players and owners have been described, is a different sort of animal than your typical fight between union workers and company managers. But I didn’t realize just how weird the situation was until I read the argument by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal yesterday.

As you read the following section of the op-ed, keep in mind that Goodell represents the owners (i.e., the capital side of the equation):

In the union lawyers’ world, every player would enter the league as an unrestricted free agent, an independent contractor free to sell his services to any team. Every player would again become an unrestricted free agent each time his contract expired. And each team would be free to spend as much or as little as it wanted on player payroll or on an individual player’s compensation.

Any …

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The things we’d forgo to build a new Falcons stadium

Much of the public debate about a potential new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons has focused on the wrong question.

The issue is not whether the Falcons, their fans and — above all — owner Arthur Blank would benefit from having a new stadium built with an expected $400 million in tax money. The issue is whether building a replacement for, or complement to, the Georgia Dome is the best use of those millions.

As an economist would say, is it worth the “opportunity cost”? That would be the next-best choice among all possible things the money could buy.

And we could buy a lot of things for $400 million — the state’s expected portion of the $700 million project. Put another way, we’re talking roughly $19 million a year. Based on recent years, that’s the portion of annual hotel/motel tax revenues in Atlanta that would be dedicated to the new stadium.

Hotel tax revenue is sometimes considered “free money” because it comes from visitors. That’s why it’s better to think in terms of what …

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New Atlanta stadium: Don’t raise the roof for Super Bowl

“No dome, no Super Bowl” in Atlanta — Norman Braman, then-chairman of the NFL’s Super Bowl selection committee, 1989

“… we could not overcome the prejudice of the owners’ vote concerning the 2000 ice storm” the last time the Super Bowl was in Atlanta — Gary Stokan, president of the Atlanta Sports Council, in a 2005 memo

“The [Super Bowl] is meant to be played in the elements” — Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, 2010

Which of these statements does not belong?

There are any number of reasons to oppose using tax revenues to build a second downtown stadium for professional football. First and foremost, there are far more pressing needs for the several million dollars a year in Atlanta hotel taxes that will be freed up when the Georgia Dome is paid off. (Our GOP-dominated Legislature and Republican governor apparently thought otherwise this spring when they approved a 30-year extension of the tax to pay for a new stadium.)

There may also be reasons to support the new …

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Taxpayers can’t spring for new Falcons stadium

It’s a great time to be an Atlanta Falcons fan. The star-laden team is coming off its biggest win of the season, and more than 70,000 fans will fill the Georgia Dome on Sunday night for a nationally televised matchup with the Chicago Bears. It delights a football nut to pen such sentences, which couldn’t have been written for most of the Falcons’ 44 years.

The franchise thinks this success offers an opportunity to agitate for replacing the 17-year-old Dome. Falcons owner Arthur Blank raised the subject yet again this month. The dream is a billion-dollar stadium with a retractable roof, built downtown or perhaps in Doraville by the end of the 2010s, and funded with public and private money.

But there could be no worse time to talk about spending any tax dollars to replace a functioning stadium, especially in financially flailing Atlanta.

Just this summer, Atlanta raised its property tax rate by 42 percent to close a $56 million budget gap. The city fiscal situation will …

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