Sports leave cities because of crime, not conservatism

Sports leave cities because of crime, not conservatism

Sports leave cities because of crime, not conservatism

A ball game can be great family fun. Having your eight-year-old accosted by panhandlers — not so much.

Joshua Arnold
Joshua Arnold

Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.

Washington, D.C.’s professional basketball and hockey teams are reportedly leaving the city for nearby Virginia, according to the announcement of a tentative agreement made last week. Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears (R) suggested that rising crime in D.C. was a factor in the move.

“It’s not just about money, but you got to talk about the environment. ... What is the surrounding area of the venue?” she said during a local radio interview. “If you go to the game and you’re having fun, but if you leave the game having to look over your shoulder, that’s an issue.”

The Washington Wizards (NBA) and Capitals (NHL) play at the Capitol One Arena, located between two entrances of the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro station. That area of the city that has become a hotspot for assaults, robberies, and carjackings, not to mention the unsavory odors of urine and marijuana.

In general, D.C. crime rates have skyrocketed since 2020 and continue to rise. Just this year, D.C. has seen a 34% increase in homicide, a 69% increase in robbery, and an 89% increase in motor vehicle theft over the same point in 2022. The neighborhood of the Capitol One Arena has experienced at least its fair share of these.

If San Francisco cleaned up their streets for their professional sports teams as well as they do for visits by foreign dictators, their teams might have better players — perhaps even the hottest new talent.

A ball game can be great family fun. Having your eight-year-old accosted by panhandlers — not so much.

In a desperate attempt to save their sports teams, the D.C. government put together a last-minute package offering half a billion dollars to renovate the current location, plus extending the lease for another 30 years. But it seems Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis still prefers Virginia’s offer, a $2 billion public-private partnership that would create a state-of-the-art, 70-acre district in Alexandria, Va. The new location would likely offer more long-term benefits, including a relative freedom from the problem of urban crime.

It’s not just Washington, D.C. The San Francisco Giants (MLB) can’t seem to attract talented free-agents because the city has become a “polarizing place,” lamented Farhan Zaidi, president of Giants baseball operations, last year. The East Bay Times reported that the Giants last signed an impact free-agent position player in 1993.

“Something I think is noteworthy, something that unfortunately keeps popping up from players and even the players’ wives is there’s a bit of an uneasiness with the city itself, as far as the state of the city, with crime, with drugs,” said Buster Posey, former All-Star catcher for the Giants and now a member of the team’s executive board.

Most recently, the Giants were stung when superstar Shohei Otani signed with their top rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers in a record-breaking $700 million, 10-year contract, even though the Giants offered him the same deal.

If San Francisco cleaned up their streets for their sports teams as well as they do it for visits by foreign dictators, those teams might have better players — perhaps even the hottest new talent. It’s not like having less crime, homelessness, and drug problems than Los Angeles is a particularly high bar to clear. As it stands, all those needles keep driving talent away.

Granted, there are other reasons besides crime for why an athlete, sports team, or league will choose one city over another. For instance, the Oakland Raiders (NFL) and Athletics (MLB) were both enticed to move to Las Vegas after the Nevada legislature pledged $750 million and $380 million, respectively, towards new stadiums.

But one factor that doesn’t drive sports away from a city — at least not permanently — is commonsense (a.k.a. conservative) policymaking.

Those who can remember the distant past — or at least 2021 — will recall that Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star Game out of Atlanta, Ga. over that state’s election integrity law, which the media and Democrats nationwide slandered as “Jim Crow 2.0.” They demanded that the Georgia legislature defer to their uninformed opinion; when it realized the state was playing a different game with different rules, it took its ball home in a huff.

After regaining its temper, last month, the MLB announced the All-Star Game will move back to Atlanta in 2025 — despite Georgia having changed exactly nothing about the law. In fact, in the intervening midterm election, Georgia voters set an all-time record for midterm election turnout, and it ran so smoothly that zero percent (0%) of black voters in Georgia rated their personal voting experience as “poor.” In that election, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (R) and his legislative allies comfortably won reelection, demonstrating that his state’s voters didn’t punish them politically for standing up to the MLB’s folly. Georgia didn’t change; it was the MLB that changed.

In 2021, other states also dealt with fears that the NCAA might boycott them over other cultural policies, such as protecting girls’ sports from male encroachment. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) even vetoed a women’s sports bill, citing this fear as the reason. A couple years later, roughly half the states in the union (including South Dakota) have a women’s sports bill, and the NCAA hasn’t boycotted any of them.

States advancing pro-life, pro-family, or other conservative policies might run the risk that progressive elites in the sports world will throw a political tantrum. But any economic hit will likely be short-lived, so long as a state pursues fundamentally good policies that make it an attractive place to do business. What really drives sports away in the long-run — teams, players, and even fans — are policies that make a city unattractive, such as toleration for high crime, mass homelessness, and open use of drugs.

Here’s a simple principle for policymakers: if you wouldn’t want to hang out nearby a team’s stadium or arena, chances are that fans, their families, and ultimately the teams themselves don’t want to hang out there either.

This article appeared originally here.

Notice: This column is printed with permission. Opinion pieces published by AFN.net are the sole responsibility of the article's author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of the staff or management of, or advertisers who support the American Family News Network, AFN.net, our parent organization or its other affiliates.