Home Business History How Politicians, Not Athletes, Changed Sport

How Politicians, Not Athletes, Changed Sport


As the political conventions go on, it is as good a time as any to understand how the political process has enriched the American sports industry. The following shows definite political posts in history that made sports evolve into the billion dollar business it is today:

1.) The 1922 Supreme Court of the United States ruling that baseball was a game, not an interstate business giving the sport a blanket antitrust exemption and monopoly status.

2.) The 1950 decision by Milwaukee elected officials to build a publicly funded stadium.

3.) President John F. Kennedy’s signature on the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 which allowed sports organizations to sell their “league” as one entity to TV networks, skirting antitrust laws. That piece of legislation led to a bidding war for players between the National and American Football Leagues through allowing teams equal TV money.

4.) The bidding war for football talent ended on June 8, 1966 when the AFL and NFL announced a merger. The agreement had to go before Congress, and was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in October of the same year.

5.) In 1984, President Ronald Reagan signed cable TV legislation which socialized the basic-expanded tier of cable.  This meant people had all programming on that particular tier or none. Sports found a “home-tier” and a new and significant revenue stream was formed.

6.)  Finally, there was one piece of the 1986 tax code revision that was seized by sports owners. Under the right set of circumstances, an owner could receive up to 92 cents out of every dollar generated in a publicly funded arena or stadium. It was a great deal for the owners, but rotten for local taxpayers who had to make up for the revenue shortfalls that would have gone to pay down stadium or arena debt.

All of these political maneuverings brought more and more money into sports.

By Evan Weiner for The Politics of Sports Business.

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.


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