Hail to the Pickpockets!

The Artful Dodger
The Artful Dodger

by James A. Bacon

Hey, if the Washington Redskins ever yield to the forces of political correctness and change their team name, I’ve got a new suggestion — the Washington Pickpockets. The symbolism is perfect. Not only does the Redskin franchise play for a city where Congress has perfected the skill of fleecing the taxpayer, the Skins rival Charles Dickens’ Artful Dodger in their ability to relieve fans and taxpayers alike of their money.

Three years ago, the McDonnell administration and Loudoun County forked over $6 million in state and local funds to keep the headquarters of the Redskins organization in Virginia. Then the City of Richmond agreed to build a $10 million training facility and pay $500,000 a year over eight years if only the team would move its training practice to Richmond. Even at the time, the training-camp deal generated more razzing than Robert Griffin III on a bad day. Three seasons later, it turns out that the jeers for the deal (the jury’s still out regarding RGIII) were roundly deserved.

The first year of training camp was a modest success, creating a $10.5 million economic impact to the Richmond region. A daily average of 10,800 people attended the practices that year. The number over the same span last year fell to 7,500, and then to 4,500 this year.  As the Richmond Times-Dispatch wryly observed, the Richmond Squirrels AA-league baseball club has been drawing larger crowds.

Declining attendance means declining spending. Vendors have abandoned a city-sponsored food truck court. City revenue from the event is falling short, which means  the city has to dig deeper to meet its $500,000-a-year payment.

Bacon’s bottom line: Sports & entertainment promotion is not a core competency of state and local government. The City of Richmond has no business cutting deals with the likes of the Redskins. By contrast, education is a core competency (or core incompetency, depending on your perspective). Rather than spending funds on entertainment venues, Richmond should be using the money to address a maintenance/renovation backlog that, by one estimate, amounts to $620 million.

As for the Redskins, this is one quasi-fan who’s had enough. Let ’em go back to Loudoun, or Washington, D.C. for that matter. I won’t miss them one bit.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


6 responses to “Hail to the Pickpockets!”

  1. I believe the NFL salary cap is $123M. That’s for the players, not he coaches, assistant coaches, etc. NFL players pay personal income taxes based on te number of “duty days” they work – duty days include games, practice, etc. Of course, the players are taxed (at the state level) in whatever state the duty days occur. So, when a Florida team plays a game in California they pay California state taxes for that one duty day. On game day they earn 13.3% less than the days prior to the game when they were practicing in Florida.

    Keeping Redskins Park in Northern Virginia kept most of the personal income taxes of the players, coaches, etc in Virginia. Assuming that 90% of a players duty days occur at the training facility that comes to $6.3M in state income taxes for the players alone each year. In addition, many players want to live close to where they work (certainly not all but many). Keeping the practice facility in NoVa also kept the property taxes in NoVa.

    So, Virginia and Northern Virginia’s decision to pay to keep the Redskins training facility in Loudoun County makes some economic sense. Had it moved to Maryland or DC all of the players and coach’s state income taxes would have moved too. Some of the property tax proceeds would have moved as well – even “tough as nails” defensive linemen are afraid of Washington area traffic.

    As for Richmond building a facility and paying the Redskins to run summer camp there – well that was just stupid.

    1. How does the income tax payment based on location of “duty days” interact with the cross-state agreements (tax reciprocity) between DC, Maryland, and Virginia? Most Marylanders who work in Virginia only pay income tax to Maryland due to the reciprocity agreements, and vice versa. Is there a reason that wouldn’t apply to the Washington football team players, assuming those players live in one of the area jurisdictions? In other words, except for those players who maintain an out-of-region state of residence, I don’t think the location of the training facility would matter. An interesting question would be the share of players who live outside of the region and are not covered by the tax reciprocity agreements.

      1. You are right with regard to the tax reciprocity for Virginia, DC and Maryland. I had forgotten about that. I spend enough time working in New York that I have to pay New York taxes on the days I work there and I have to file a New York state tax return. That wouldn’t apply if Virginia and New York had a reciprocal agreement.

        So, the question becomes one of players living outside the “reciprocity zone”, whether players wold move and where new player would live. Given the short careers of NFL players, their relative youth and lack of family attachments and the fact that they could be traded at almost any time … I’d guess that a lot of players maintain residences in their hometowns and those that do move try to live close to where they practice. But, my original estimate of $6M per year in personal income tax losses is overstated.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    So what Don is saying is that if the Team stays in Va and pays taxes to Va.. they want some of those taxes to pay for their facilities …

    Sort of like a business incentive or a Tax increment finance district, eh?

    that’s not uncommon in the Fredericksburg Area – the city agree to rebate sales taxes to Wegmans in exchange for them building a store here.

    Of course the other supermarkets in the area don’t think much of the idea especially the GIANT FOOD a mile away that closed.

    1. That’s what I am saying and it’s pure BS. The net of this is a wealth transfer from the citizens of Loudoun County and the City of Richmond to Dan Snyder. It should be illegal to use public funds (including the offering of tax breaks) for the purpose of incentivizing an organization to locate in one US locality vs another.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Incentives? here you go:

    The Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a $9.7 million incentive package Tuesday for Lidl, a European discount grocery chain that plans to build a $125 million distribution center in the county.

    The incentives include an up-front payment of $1.4 million from the county, $400,000 of which will go toward the company’s purchase of land for its distribution center.

    The company also will receive personal property tax rebates of up to $5.7 million over 17 years and sales tax rebates of up to $1.8 million over the same time period. In addition, the incentives include a $450,000 grant to extend water and sewer lines to the distribution center and a $300,000 grant to cover the cost of construction permits and other county fees.”

Leave a Reply