Must-click link: how team owners are allowed to lie about their financial losses

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This is a basketball item in its genesis, dealing with the New Jersey Nets’ financial documents and inspired by the NBA lockout, but it is relevant for baseball and all other sports as well.

Over at Deadspin, Tommy Craggs, using some older Nets docs, explains how team owners are allowed to list player salaries on their balance sheets twice, thereby dramatically inflating their on-paper financial losses. The little trick — thanks to a specious tax loophole argued for and obtained by Bill Veeck back in the day — allows them to cry poor when it’s time to do battle with the players’ unions at collective bargaining agreement time.

Well, the players unions know about this little tax loophole too, so it’s more about crying poor to the gullible media and gullible fans, but you get the idea.

The specifics here are quite instructive, but even if you don’t care about Craggs’ use of the specifics Nets’ documents, you should at least read the piece to understand that this sort of manipulation of the facts on the ground is a trick that sports owners have been using for years, be it in labor talks, threats to move or contract teams or in their efforts to obtain new stadiums and/or other incentives from local governments and tax payers.

You shouldn’t take anyone’s word about anything when money is involved, but boy howdy, be extra, extra dubious of anything the owner of a sports team tells you when he has his hand out.