Butt Out

by Don Boudreaux on February 3, 2008

in Current Affairs, Entertainment, Nanny State, Politics, Sports

Here’s a letter that I sent yesterday to the New York Times:

Senator Arlen Specter
imagines that it is his and his fellow maharajahs’ duty to investigate
why the National Football League destroyed the Patriots’ tapes of the Jets ("Goodell Defends
Handling of Patriots’ Spying Case
," February 2).

If I were NFL
Commissioner Roger Goodell, I would respond to Sen. Specter’s threat to
call a Senate committee hearing to investigate this matter by saying
only "Dear Sen. Specter:  The rule that the Patriots violated is one
that the NFL, not Congress, created.  We are a private organization
quite capable of enforcing our own rules.  So butt out; this matter is
none of your damn business.  Sincerely…."

Donald J. Boudreaux

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John Pertz February 3, 2008 at 11:32 am

Glad to see that I wasn't alone in thinking those exact sentiments when the news broke of Spector's interest in the case.

Joe February 3, 2008 at 12:43 pm

I agree completely. I think someone should investigate the Sen. for wasting our time and taxpayer money.

bartman February 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm

As long as the NFL wants to enjoy the fruits of its anti-trust exemption, it'll have to expect and tolerate this sort of silliness.

Nathan Benefield February 3, 2008 at 12:57 pm

If the NFL truly wants no government oversight, it should pay back taxpayers for corporate welfare for stadiums.


Don Boudreaux February 3, 2008 at 1:04 pm

About the NFL's antitrust exemption: subjecting a league to antitrust is itself silly; that itself is an inappropriate use of power over firms. The fact that government has the power to destroy in the name of the public good — the power to, as Fred McChesney puts it, "extract rents" — businesses will be subjected to the whims of those wielding power in Washington. And, sadly, even the most absurd interferences with private matters (as this Specter intrusion is) will be excused by too many people by saying "Oh well, such intrusions are to be expected in return for this and that special "favor" given to the firm by Uncle Sam."

Very scary.

save_the_rustbelt February 3, 2008 at 1:27 pm

Nathan has a point, pro sports teams have become skilled extortionists, "build us a stadium or we leave, ripping the guts out of fans who have been loyal to our business for decades."

Pro sports teams are the modern version of welfare queens with Cadillacs.

And the Steelers will be in the SuperBowl next year.

lowcountryjoe February 3, 2008 at 1:53 pm

No, Specter is completely justified. He should lead a charge to come after the owners for their obscene profits, too! /sarcasm

FreedomLover February 3, 2008 at 2:46 pm

God, what nonsense when Congress decides to butt in pro sports. Are Americans total idiots!

The Dirty Mac February 3, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Your post is almost correct, save_the_rustbelt. But the Jets will be back in the Super Bowl next year.

M. Hodak February 3, 2008 at 3:23 pm

I'm not sure what is sillier; the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by the NFL, or the particular antitrust statute from which they have received that exemption.

Chris Meisenzahl February 3, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Dead-on. While I despise the 'hoodie' and the Pats … I can't for the life of me see how this is within the purview of Congress.

ColtsXLI February 3, 2008 at 5:20 pm

As long as the NFL chooses to extort local taxpayers to pay for stadiums the league itself should be paying for, scrutiny from government bureaucrats will always be present. The antitrust exemption is indeed silly, and the whole of antitrust legislation should be repealed en masse, but no local government has the ability to garner media coverage the way the federal government can. I can for one say that if the Colts were involved in such scandals(including the recently reported taping of a Rams walk-through before Super Bowl XXXVI), I would want the City of Indianapolis to snatch any private funding of their new Lucas Oil Stadium from them. And I realize exactly what that would do to my team. But I realize that the City of Boston(or does Foxboro carry the burden for Gillette/Patriot's Place?) would not do this because they would fear it would angry their own constituency.

The league could avoid this sort of oversight if they funded new stadiums from league proceeds, and then leased them to the teams. It would probably also give the benefit of better terms and easier acquisition of financing. And maybe the league would be forced into not building billion dollar stadiums for every team. This is just a thought, but with over $8B in revenue a year, the league should be able to afford it.

Chris February 3, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Completely agree with Don's view of the good Senator's inquiry. Unfortunately, Senator Specter has been in the Senate long enough that he thinks the world really does revolve around Washington.

I actually disagree with the antitrust exemption. To my knowledge, soccer clubs in England do not have such an exemption and seem to be doing fine. Meanwhile, US cities are covered by byzantine blackout rules which serve to increase the NFL's take, but don't give consumers the games they're looking for.

Mathieu B├ędard February 3, 2008 at 5:53 pm

I wish the Societe Generale would send a similar mail to Sarkozy about their rogue trader!

colson February 3, 2008 at 6:51 pm


It's funny because your argument is the same argument that government has used to coerce higher education – except the bait has been student loan funding as the gateway into demanding (extorting?) obedience to the federal whims….

kem February 3, 2008 at 10:37 pm

I second the motion to investigate Specter.

Bob in SeaTac February 3, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Senator Spector has a severe case of unwarranted self-importance. Unfortunately for the public, it is a disease most Senators and Representatives have.

brotio February 3, 2008 at 11:59 pm

I'm not sure which is sillier; the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by the NFL, or the Jets in the Super Bowl next year :p

I am rather happy, though, that The Best Team In The History Of The NFL finished the year in second place :D

MD February 4, 2008 at 1:16 am

I don't think Specter really cares about the tapes. I think he is still trying to stick it to the NFL on behalf of Comcast (IIRC one of his 3 biggest campaign contributors) who are currently fighting with the NFL's. My guess is that Specter is just using Spygate as an excuse to resurrect his previous attempts to attack the NFL antitrust exemption relating to television network rights.

Richard February 4, 2008 at 6:04 am


Look at it from a marketing point of view. I don't think it is in the interest of the NFL to point out that these are 'internal regulations' of the NFL.

Wouldn't it be wonderfull (for the wallet of the NFL) if the general public thought congress had anything to do with it?

They could play the underdog & still win!

Kent Gatewood February 4, 2008 at 12:23 pm

For me the proper libertarian response would be to write Jerry Jones, and ask him why he isn't cheating.

save_the_rustbelts February 4, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Specter is unhappy because his Eagles were not in the Super Bowl, go Steelers!

Austin February 4, 2008 at 3:08 pm

The government should butt out completely, and in all forms. No more investigations. No more anti-trust exemption. No more public funding of stadiums.

Take the government out of sports.

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