Turner Field wasn’t a gift the city of Atlanta needed, so who can be surprised that its city government is almost indifferent to the news that the Atlanta Braves, the ballpark’s sole tenant, plan to move to suburban Cobb County in 2017.
The truth is: good riddance! The Braves wanted city officials to remake the area around “The Ted,” a remake that would cost upward of $200 million. Where was Atlanta supposed to get that money — from taxpayers?
The greed of the billionaires who own sports teams represents corporate welfare of the worst sort. Give a team a beautiful new ballpark, as the Braves were given when the U.S. Olympic Committee turned over the venue to Atlanta after the 1996 Summer Olympics, and it should be grateful.
The Braves were not. They wanted to gentrify the neighborhood that surrounded the ballpark. It was a naked attempt to move out Black residents and replace them with well-to-do whites who were more likely to attend a baseball game at The Ted than poor Black residents were.
Atlanta officials weren’t about to allow it. They will miss some of the revenue a professional sports team brings into the city. They will miss the cachet that having a big league team can bring. They will not, however, miss the constant grab for more: for more renovations, for more tax breaks, for more control of a neighborhood where the team had no stake.
So take your baseball gear and head to Cobb County. For if staying in Atlanta meant its taxpayers had to give billionaires another damn dime, the city was better off saying hell no — go.
For taxpayers everywhere should have learned a long time ago that greedy owners are impossible to satisfy. The more public money these billionaires get the more of it they demand, but the public has nothing left to give them if a well-kept ballpark isn’t enough.
Since the mid-1990s, billionaire (or multimillionaire) owners have gotten stadiums and arenas built by threatening to move. Not mere threats, extortion. Men go to federal prison for extorting smaller amounts.
Where should you put men who extort millions?
Atlanta officials said put them in Cobb County … let these billionaires go wherever their greed will find someone to feed it.
Nobody in Atlanta was willing to feed it, which pleased the Braves. They seemed to be a baseball franchise that was more comfortable outside Atlanta than inside. The franchise and its rich owners wanted the surrounding neighborhood to look like their fan base and not like Black Atlanta.
Once these rich owners got Cobb County taxpayers to pony up $300 million for a new ballpark, The Ted, which turns 18 in 2014, was destined for the wreckering ball. What else could Atlanta officials do with a Major League ballpark without a Major League tenant?
But they shed not a tear for losing the Braves, the first Deep South team in the big leagues that never did thrill all Atlantans, regardless of how many National League pennants the ball club won. They shed no tear over plans to tear down The Ted and use the vacant land for the public’s good. They shed no tear over having to give back a gift that Atlanta never welcomed in the first place.
Too bad, though, that Atlanta’s loss has to become the burden of other taxpayers, who will one day rue the bargain they made with the perpetually greedy.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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