November 23, 2014


FitzGerald: Tie performance of sports teams to sin tax money

CLEVELAND — To downtrodden fans accustomed to heartbreak, it might seem an exercise in futility: A top county official and gubernatorial candidate has suggested divvying up maintenance money for Cleveland’s three professional sports venues based on the teams’ performance.

Ed FitzGerald said Thursday that the idea hasn’t been tried elsewhere. But how do you decide who performs best when these teams typically wallow in mediocrity — or worse?

Cuyahoga County voters in May approved a 20-year extension of a sin tax on alcohol and cigarettes that’s projected to raise $26 million annually. FitzGerald wants the three teams to compete for

20 percent of that money based on how well they play. He would create a fan advisory committee to establish the criteria for judging performance and which team gets the biggest share of the cash, which like all sin tax money can only be spent on maintenance for the venues.

FitzGerald on Thursday called it a “win” tax. He noted that a Cleveland team hasn’t won a world championship in 50 years, something fans don’t needed to be reminded about.

Form a panel of dyed-in-the-wool Cleveland sports fans fed up with their teams’ losing ways and management’s questionable decisions, and they might be tempted to tell FitzGerald to keep the money.

Bob Paponetti, a 56-year-old lifelong fan of Cleveland sports teams who bought some Indians gear for a friend Thursday, said he didn’t like the idea of teams having to compete against each other for money.

“They should all be supportive of each other,” he said.

City of Cleveland spokeswoman Maureen Harper said the city thinks the money should be split evenly. Cleveland owns FirstEnergy Stadium, where the Browns try to play football. Progressive Field, where the Indians play, and Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cavaliers, are owned by the quasi-governmental Gateway Corp.

A Republican candidate for county executive and a county councilman panned the idea. The Ohio Republican Party called it a publicity stunt.

Representatives from the three teams issued terse “no comments.”

Clevelanders haven’t had much to cheer about the last 50 years. No major Cleveland franchise has won a world championship since Blanton Collier’s Browns beat the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, in 1964.

The Indians made it to the World Series twice in the 1990s and were one out away from winning the title in 1997. Jose Mesa, the Indians’ closer who blew the most crucial of saves, remains both an expletive and Cleveland’s version of Bill Buckner.

Hope sprung eternal when the Cavaliers drafted local hero and current basketball legend LeBron James in 2003. But the Cavaliers’ single appearance in the NBA finals with James resulted in a merciless sweep by the San Antonio Spurs. He then took his considerable talent to Miami in 2010, and the Cavaliers have not made the playoffs since. James, meanwhile, has a chance to soon win his third NBA title.

The Browns? It’s arguable, perhaps likely, that the Browns are the most loved and most reviled of all the professional franchises in Cleveland. Love and hate. Hope and despair. If the Browns ever wanted to put something on the bare sides of their orange helmets, the Chinese symbol for yin and yang might get a few votes.

Edward Bass-Bey, a 65-year-old sports fan, remembers his father taking him to a 1964 game in which Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown slowly rose after being tackled only to bolt through another hole in the line on the next play.

“We’re pitting one against the other,” Bass-Bey said of FitzGerald’s plan. “Cleveland sports fans should be Cleveland sports fans.”


  • golfingirl

    This has to be the dumbest idea I have heard in a very long time!

    Really? How about jobs, lower gas and food prices as a couple of “ideas” that need more attention.

    “FitzGerald wants to use team performance as criteria for 20 percent of the amount collected.”

    So, they collect it, don’t have to pay it to a sports team……what do they do with it? Waste it on another unnecessary government project? Where will this money go?

    “… says Cleveland’s major pro sports teams should get less money if they don’t perform well.”

    They already do, it is called low attendance!

    This is just plain stupid!

    • TruthWhisperer

      Sin tax itself is stupid. There is supposed to be a separation of Church and State so how can there be a Government Sin anything?

      Never mind the fact that all those teams suck anyways.

      • Simon Jester

        It’s funny, that when you pull your head out of your @ss, you can actually make a cogent point.

        Still not getting a plus one. Call me when you figure out how individual liberty and civil rights work.

        • golfingirl

          There is hope for him yet.

    • Americaschild

      such a goof ball–give taxpayers cash to a team stupid

  • TheRustyScupper

    This guy is REALLY nutso!
    Let’s assume he gets the ordinance:
    . . . the team does well and its moMooneyoes up
    . . . then, teams in the division spend millions more than the team
    . . . performance suffers
    . . . so, beyond their control, we cut their money
    Dumb, really dumb.
    Wait, I take tgat bathat!!
    He’s a Clevealnd Democrat, so it is a good excuse for stupidity.

    • golfingirl

      He just wants control over money he has no right to own.

      A typical political money-grab.

      A huge waste of time.

      Leads one to question where his priorities will be if elected!

      • HankKwah

        What’s even better is if one of these teams leaves town along with millions in income that Cuyahoga County is now getting in the forms of player income tax, out-of-town ticket holders, fans, etc. Then he’ll wish he shut his ignorant trap.

  • SniperFire


  • Simon Jester

    Or the government ( Fitz and his tax grubbing ilk) could keep their hands off of professional sports.

    (Yes, I am aware of the tax incentives and other .gov meddling involved in professional sports. ) The point is that this would be governor isn’t.

    IF more government is the answer, it must have been an incredibly stupid question to begin with.

    The Browns suck. We get it. No government stooge or tax penalty is going to change that.

    • stop ur whining part deux

      I understand your point but it is the sports teams that tie themselves to the city. Want to avoid that? Fine, but your owners then need to pony up all the money for the stadium to be built and maintained.

      I for one have no problem if we pay less out of our pocket to maintain a buildings that house losing teams. Win more, get more, win less, get less. Seems fair to me provided that it is an adjusting scale yearly and not a base tax where the excess is diverted into a slush fund.

  • Razorback Twou

    is this clown on drugs?

  • Americaschild

    fix the streets in cleveland, add police to fight allllllllllll of the crime, dmolish buildings, add parks, clean up edgewater, get a street sweeper–BUT DO NOT GIVE A PENNY TO ANY TEAM ….YOU fiztgerald are a TRUE GIVE TAX DOLLARS AND MONEY AWAY DEMOCRAT LIBERAL—

    • Simon Jester

      And you are a bloody schizophrenic.

  • Otter

    Just a random thought, why not tie the players and coaches paychecks to their performance?

    • golfingirl

      As in golf….you don’t win, you don’t get paid.

  • John Davidson

    And this idiot wants to be the governor and run the state. Please don’t let it happen.

  • SpaceTech

    Last time I checked none of our so called professional teams received ANY revenue from the sin tax fund. Sin tax is supposedly to support the palaces that these millionaires play in and has NOTHING to do with the team.
    Fitzgerald needs to focus on real issues instead of trying to score brownie points with disgruntled sports team fans.

  • alreadyfedup1

    So here is the true question “what happens to the collected tax money if it’s not used to pay for the property”. Sounds like liberal poppycock. Do you plan on pocketing the money earmarked to pay for repairs.

  • stop ur whining part deux

    Provided that the tax truly fluctuates yearly based on record i am OK with it. Now if the tax is supposed to remain the same annually and the difference is placed in a “rainy day” fund I am against it.

  • Pablo Jones

    This is funny. I think this must be the first time a Democrat has supported pay based on performance. The whole logistics are a bit crazy, essentially he wants to hold the stadiums hostage over the performance of the sports team.

    Now let’s ask him if teachers should be paid based on their performance, or union workers, or politicians. I’d be he would be against those pay per performance plans.

    • HankKwah

      Take it a step further and ask him to apply that thinking to welfare. No play, no pay.

  • oldruss

    If there is a slush fund available with which FitzGerald thinks he and/or county council can play games, it sounds like there’s money that should be refunded to the tax payers.