L.A. to NFL: Drop dead by Joe Mathews @FortuneMagazine October 29, 2014, 8:22 AM EST E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons Mayor Eric Garcetti says Los Angeles shouldn’t give taxpayer dollars to the National Football League. I disagree. L.A. would be wise to pay the NFL—to stay out of Southern California. Unfortunately, 20 years after the Raiders and Rams left town, the very bad idea of luring the NFL back is gaining momentum. Los Angeles just extended a downtown stadium deal agreement that was expiring. The NFL is surveying rich Angelenos to see if they’d buy season tickets. Garcetti himself says it’s “highly likely” a team will relocate here soon. So there’s no time to waste in stopping the drive for a new team. The arguments against bringing the NFL are so strong and numerous that I can’t list them all in a short column, but here are a few: An NFL team would add to our deep bench of dubious celebrities. The L.A. media already has enough athletes and other celebrities to distract TV stations and newspapers from covering things that actually matter; we don’t need to add a team of rambunctious football players to our Kardashian culture. And then there are our sports team owners. After the damage Frank McCourt and Donald Sterling did to our civic fabric, why risk bringing another rich and crazy person to town? An NFL team in L.A. would cannibalize existing businesses. Studies show that adding a pro sports franchise doesn’t add to a city’s wealth. Instead, it redistributes existing dollars away from other entertainment options to the new franchise. Since the three teams likely to relocate to L.A. are the Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers or St. Louis Rams, we’d be stealing from our fellow Californians, or from pitiable Midwesterners who don’t enjoy L.A.’s wide range of cultural offerings. A new team would be wasteful. The NFL requires cities to build a new football stadium in order to get a team, but L.A. already has more than enough stadiums to go around. Pasadena has spent nearly $200 million modernizing the Rose Bowl, USC is fixing up the Coliseum, and baseball’s Dodgers and Angels play in stadiums fully capable of hosting NFL games. If you want to see what can go wrong with a brand-new stadium, check out the parking, traffic, and fan violence problems at the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. A new team might be bad for Los Angeles’ own football fans. Just as ocean life often thrives around collapsed oil rigs, the absence of the NFL has allowed a delicate football ecology to flourish in the City of Angels. Our TV stations air the best pro games from across the country. On Sundays, Angelenos with roots across the nation gather together dressed in their hometown teams’ jerseys. And if you absolutely must see the NFL in person, the Chargers are just a train ride away in San Diego. Despite all this, many of our leaders insist that a city of our grandeur should have an NFL team. They also promise that such a team will cost L.A. nothing. If you believe that, I’d like to take a bet from you on the Raiders winning this year’s Super Bowl. The city’s current deal for a downtown stadium, while providing for a private company to pay for a stadium, uses public land and requires the city to sell some $300 million in bonds to build new convention space. Of course, the NFL hasn’t embraced even that deal—it doesn’t want its owner paying the $1.5 billion cost of a new stadium—and is shopping around Southern California for better terms. The NFL could offer other lures to draw public subsidies—giving L.A. two teams instead of just one, or committing to hosting multiple Super Bowls here. And even if taxpayers escape paying for a football stadium now, a team, once here, would almost certainly come back for handouts in the future. Ask yourself: Do you trust the L.A. political and business leaders who just lined up behind a $1.6 billion tax giveaway to Hollywood to stick to a hard line against public support for a pro football team? Me neither. With the NFL determined to come here, L.A’s best hope may be to offer incentives to stay away. When you think of all the costs of having a team—stadium costs now in and in the future, additional traffic, the dollars that football would divert away from other entertainment options, and all the time wasted on the NFL drama—paying off the NFL becomes a bargain. Together, the county and city should offer the league $100 million in exchange for a guarantee never to put a team here. And what if the league turns it down, you ask? That, at the very least, would make the reality undeniable: The NFL wants to take L.A. for all it’s worth. Joe Mathews is California and Innovation editor for Zocalo Public Square, for which he writes the Connecting California column.