Via Deadspin, here’s an investigative report from 810 WHB radio in Kansas City, detailing how millions of public dollars given to the Kansas City Royals for repairs and maintenance to Kaufman Stadium have not been used for repair and maintenance. Indeed, 91% of it has been used for things besides maintenance:
The Royals have received at least $12.7 million from taxpayers that was approved by the Jackson County Sports Complex Authority as part of the RMMO provision of the team’s lease with the county and spent it on full and part time employee salaries, security, cable tv, first aid, utilities, telephones and even payroll taxes. By using the money for payroll taxes, the team literally collected taxpayer money to pay their own taxes. The Sports Authority approved the expenses and operates separately from Jackson County government.
This is frightening. Not just because it’s kinda fishy, but because it means that tax payers may be indirectly paying Jeff Francoeur nearly $7 million to hit .238/.275/.366 this year!
Is it illegal? No: there is a provision in the Royals lease which allows them to use the fund to pay “Event Day Operations.” 810 WHB has a detailed breakdown of what the Royals are spending this money on. I suppose a bit of it actually goes for day-of-event expenses in the common use of the term. The rest of it: not really, but I’m assuming the lease’s definition of such operations is pretty expansive.
But the notable part for me: those “Event Day Operations,” however defined, were not approved by taxpayers. The fund, when put before voters, literally was just for stadium upkeep. The Royals negotiated the expanded uses for that fund later, with the Sports Authority, and without voter approval.
A baseball team making any effort it can to have its operations underwritten by taxpayers with minimal voter say-so? I am SHOCKED.
Rays pitcher Chris Archer doesn’t see himself joining Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest any time soon, Gabe Lacques of USA TODAY Sports reports. Archer said, “From the feedback that I’ve gotten from my teammates, I don’t think it would be the best thing to do for me, at this time. I agree with the message. I believe in equality.”
Archer continued, “I don’t want to offend anybody. No matter how you explain it or justify it, some people just can’t get past the military element of it and it’s not something I want to do, is ruffle my teammates’ feathers on my personal views that have nothing to do with baseball.”
Archer did express admiration for the way Maxwell handled his situation. The right-hander said, “The way he went about it was totally, I think, as respectful as possible, just letting everybody know that this doesn’t have anything to do with the military, first and foremost, noting that he has family members that are in the military. It’s a little bit tougher for baseball players to make that leap, but I think he was the right person to do it.”
Maxwell recently became the first baseball player to kneel as the national anthem was sung, a method of protest popularized by quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As Craig explained yesterday, baseball’s hierarchical culture has proven to be a strong deterrent for players to express their unpopular opinions. We can certainly see that in Archer’s justification. Archer was one of 62 African Americans on the Opening Day roster across 30 major league clubs (750 total players, 8.3%).
Last night the Trump Administration announced a new batch of restrictions on people traveling from foreign countries, following up on its previous travel ban on persons from six predominately Muslim countries. The latest restriction could potentially touch on Major League Baseball, however, as it includes Venezuela.
The restriction for Venezuela is far narrower than the others, only blocking visas for government officials on business or tourist travel from Venezuela. There has been considerable uncertainty about the scope and enforcement mechanisms for the previous travel ban, however, and the entire matter is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. With that uncertainty, many around Major League Baseball have asked how and if the league or the union might respond to an order that, while seemingly not facially impacting baseball personnel or their families, could impact them in practice.
To that end, Major League Baseball issued a statement this afternoon, saying “MLB is aware of the travel ban that involves Venezuela and we have contacted the appropriate government officials to confirm that it will not have an effect on our players traveling to the U.S.” It is not clear whether it has, in fact, received such confirmation or if its an ongoing dialog or what.
Again: the ban shouldn’t impact baseball players or their families based on its terms. But based on what we saw with the enforcement of the previous one — and based the unexpected consequences many major leaguers faced when international travel restrictions were tightened following the 9/11 attacks — it’s only prudent for Major League Baseball to make such inquiries and get whatever assurances it can well in advance of next February when players from Venezuela will be coming back to the United States for spring training.