The Miami Dolphins spent last week bringing deep shame to South Florida that had nothing to do with yet another 6-10 flop season at Hard Rock Stadium. The Fins sparked a national firestorm by unveiling a new policy to suspend players up to four games for peacefully protesting police brutality. As fans rebelled, team owner Stephen Ross flashed elite cornerback speed by walking back on that policy before the NFL "paused" any new discipline — but that move only made the gaffe all the more embarrassing.
Today Ross' crew will be back at Miami-Dade County Hall — this time, with their hands outstretched Oliver Twist-style to ask for more sweet, sweet taxpayer subsidies.
The Dolphins want Miami-Dade County taxpayers to cough up an additional $750,000 per year in exchange for the team's moving its training facilities from Davie across the county line to Miami Gardens. They're also separately asking the City of Miami Gardens to give back $500,000 in annual property taxes for the new practice fields.
The justifications for this taxpayer handout come straight out of the stadium-ripoff handbook that's been used to give public cash to billionaire team owners for decades — except in this case, the threats and supposed benefits are even flimsier than usual.
County Commissioner Barbara Jordan says she cooked up the incentive package after reading that the team was preparing to ditch its longtime Nova Southeastern University digs — and might be lured to Miramar instead.
This is hardly the existential threat of moving a franchise to Saskatoon if taxpayers don't pay up for a new stadium. Miramar sits barely six miles from Miami Gardens. What exactly would Miami-Dade residents stand to gain from a practice field being built a few miles farther south, across the county line?
“When I heard Mr. Ross was considering a new $50 million practice facility in Broward, I knew we had to have a conversation about bringing this massive private investment to Miami-Dade," Jordan told the Miami Herald earlier this year. "To me, it’s a perfect fit for our community and will bring a lot of economic activity to Miami-Dade.”
Will it? Stadiums themselves — where hundreds of thousands of fans actually watch games and buy hot dogs — are extremely dubious economic generators. What exactly would a practice field bring to Miami-Dade?
The Herald today takes a deeper dive into those possibilities, and the best that Jordan and her ally in the proposal, Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, can offer is that it might spark hotels and businesses to set up shop nearby and that some of the players and staff whose jobs are moving a short drive south might decide to also move to Miami-Dade to shorten their commute time.
That's about it. Even Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who backs the plan, admits it won't create any new work beyond the short-term construction gigs for the $75 million project. "It won’t be any new jobs in the area, but it will be new jobs in Miami,” he tells the Herald.
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The Dolphins are valued at $2.4 billion, according to Forbes. Stephen Ross, personally, is worth $7.6 billion.
Yet taxpayers, who already fork over up to $5 million a year to Ross in hotel taxes, could be on the hook for millions in the long run if today's motion passes — all so a few football jobs move a few miles south and maybe some hotels sprout near a practice field that Ross will build for his team one way or another anyway.
There's one addendum, of course, that commissioners could easily tack on to any new subsidy package: Ross can get his money as soon as he matches the promises of other owners such as New York Giants boss Steven Tisch, who says he won't punish any players for exercising their right to protest peacefully, no matter how loudly President Trump howls about it.
If Ross is going to get more handouts, at the very least he should stop embarrassing the hell out of us all.