By Eric Edholm
You won’t find a much more opinionated player these days than Richard Sherman, and he pretty much will take on all comers at this point.
That includes everyone top to bottom — from opposing players as much as it does NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. And now Sherman’s newest target is NFL owners who seek public funding for their new stadium projects.
Goodell sent a clear message last week in Buffalo when he told that city that its stadium was lagging behind current NFL standards, and so we can expect that a number of teams will be looking to build new homes in the coming years.
If it was up to Sherman, that would end. The conversation with 710 ESPN in Seattle started with a fun chat about what Sherman might do if he was running for president (something we might actually consider this of all election years). One campaign promise involved keeping the taxpayer money out of these new stadium projects.
“I’d get us out of this deficit,” Sherman said. “I’d stop spending billions of taxpayer dollars on stadiums and probably get us out of debt and maybe make the billionaires who actually benefit from the stadiums pay for them. That kind of seems like a system that would work for me.”
It certainly would work for a lot of cities, too. Take Oakland — the local government has pretty much told Raiders owner Mark Davis that it has tax money earmarked for more civic engagements: public parks, education, and the like. The chances there for a publicly funded statement feel somewhat remote right now.
But therein lies another issue: Not all NFL owners are the kinds of “billionaires” (to use Sherman’s word) who can shell out $500 million or more out of their own pockets to kick-start such a project. Davis might be tops on that list as one of the most cash-poor owners by NFL standards.
Another problem: Cities keep giving teams money — the people’s money — to build them. Yes, it requires bureaucratic hoop jumping, which often costs even more time and money, but they tend to get done. With Las Vegas making clear and loud overtures to Davis and the Raiders, you can bet that deal will come with serious tax assistance.
The one team that relocated this offseason, the Rams, had a damned good offer on the table for a stadium to remain in St. Louis. But they had an even more attractive destination in Los Angeles, at least in owner Stan Kroenke. And Kroenke did what Sherman wants other owners to do: paid for his own building.
Zero tax dollars! That’s what officials involved with the Rams stadium project shouted at the top of their lungs every time the Hollywood Park construction was mentioned. But it’s a semantic argument that requires just a tad of clarification. Between tax breaks, public works costs and the city paying for gameday services (transportation, security, medical services and more), the Rams could end up receiving a quarter of a billion in taxpayer benefits in little time at all.
Novel idea, Richard. But even the richest of NFL owners likely will have taxpayer assistance in one way or another. That’s another form of the power of the NFL.
This post originally appeared on Yahoo Sports. Copyright 2016.