Please Don’t Bluff Mr. Blank

This week Mayor Kasim Reed reportedly indicated to members of the Atlanta City Council that Arthur Blank implied that the Atlanta Falcons might consider a move to Los Angeles. If Arthur Blank or the Falcons are using a whispered threat of a move to Los Angeles as leverage in its negotiations seeking public money for its private gain … well, they have company.

The Carolina Panthers want Charlotte to help  with their $250 million renovation project of Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers are looking for $187 million in public subsidies for their privately-owned stadium, in return for a 10-year promise to stay in town. And the same rumors of a possible move to Los Angeles swirl around the state house in Raleigh. The Panthers own their stadium outright; no lease means no obligation to stay.

The Panthers negotiation highlights one of the central truths of the NFL and publicly-funded stadiums: the league would be mad to let a team move to Los Angeles any time soon. Minneapolis and Buffalo are under similar pressure, with a similar gesture toward the west coast hanging in the air. A relocation threat has pried open public coffers around the country for almost two decades.

The Bills, the Panthers, the Vikings and the Falcons couldn’t all move to Los Angeles, all at the same time. City and state leaders might do well before sitting at the negotiating table by asking a question: if the threat of a move to L.A. really were credible, why has it been 18 years since anyone has had a football team there?

In light of this, Common Cause Georgia sent a letter today to Arthur M. Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons. We congratulated him, and the team, for a superb season.

We also reiterated our opposition on the use of public funds for the construction of a new stadium while negotiations remain as shielded from public input and transparency as they stand today. We also asked Mr. Blank to make an unequivocal statement of commitment to remain in the city as an act of negotiating in good faith.

“We think it fair to say that all of this investment of time and resources related to the issues surrounding a possible new stadium is predicated on the understanding that the Falcons are committed to Atlanta and Georgia, and to remaining here for decades to come,” the letter states. “If, in fact, however, there is no such commitment, fairness dictates that that lack of commitment be openly declared, so that all parties, public and private, interested in the stadium issues may be dealing in just that – facts.”

What say you Mr. Blank?

About William Perry

Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia
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