In these dark, dark times, it’s important to find comfort in the few awesome things we can still rely on. Like Tom Hanks.
This week, the Forrest Gump star vented to SFGate about the Oakland Raiders’ move from the Bay Area to Las Vegas, and took NFL owners to task over taxpayer-funded stadiums in the process.
“Here’s the thing I don’t quite understand. And I’m not trying to — this isn’t one of the (many) causes I’m fighting for. I’m just thinking as a fan: It’s a billion-dollar industry, they have billion-dollar TV contracts. All the owners are billionaires,” Hanks said.
“And yet when they want to build a stadium they’re going to use for 10 weeks out of the year, they expect the city taxpayers to buy the building.”
Tom Hanks sure does make a lot of sense.
Last month, NFL owners voted 31–1 to allow the Raiders to move to Las Vegas in two years. Oakland, which has been the home of the Raiders twice, from 1960–1981 and from 1995-present, still owes $83 million in taxpayer money to cover Oakland-Alameda Coliseum’s debts dating back to a 1995 Raiders’ stadium renovation.
“When the Raiders leave, I am going on an NFL moratorium for two years.”
The team was demanding the city pony up more money to fund a brand new stadium, but Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf refused to allow the city’s residents to incur a significant amount of debt this time around, which opened up the door for relocation.
The $1.9 billion plan for a Vegas stadium includes $750 million in public funding, a deal that Business Insider dubbed “the worst stadium deal in the world.” The costs break down to $354 per person, which is a record for a sports facility. The money will come from an increased tax on hotel rooms, and could siphon money away from public schools and buses in Sin City.
Hanks isn’t alone in his outrage over such deals — last year, NFL star Richard Sherman spoke out against taxpayer-funded stadiums as well.
Kevin Seiftert of ESPN calculated that in the last 20 years, NFL teams have used $6.7 billion in public money to finance stadium renovations or brand new stadiums.
President Barack Obama tried to pass a budget that banned federal tax dollars from going to sports stadiums, but the initiative never passed through Congress. It’s unlikely that President Trump will take up this cause.
In a huge blow for Wilson—which manufactures the official footballs of the NFL and once counted Hanks among its most loyal and dedicated customers — the Raiders fiasco has been enough to inspire the Cast Away actor to take a break from the NFL for a while.
“When the Raiders leave, I am going on an NFL moratorium for two years,” Hanks said.
“You cannot take the Silver and Black, put them in an air-conditioned dome in the desert, make them play on artificial turf within a stone’s throw of the fountains of Caesar’s Palace, and call them the Raiders.”