NFL union: City revenue may shrink

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Continuing its public relations blitz against National Football League owners, the NFL players union is warning the city of Pittsburgh that a possible lockout next year could cost it $160 million in lost tax and job revenue.

With their current contract expiring in March, NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae wrote Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Gov. Ed Rendell and Governor-elect Tom Corbett Monday urging them to pressure the Rooney family and the NFL to negotiate a new pact, arguing that the city's economy will take a James Harrison-like hit if there is no 2011 football season.

"It isn't an exaggeration to state that the impact would be devastating to the thousands of working men and women in the Pittsburgh area whose incomes depend on the massive, flourishing business that the Pittsburgh Steelers generates," Mr. Mawae wrote.

The players union did not say how it calculated the $160 million estimate. During the 301-day National Hockey League lockout in 2004-05, Pittsburgh government lost $1.6 million in amusement, parking and payroll taxes, and local restaurants, hotels and other businesses lost an estimated $48 million, according to the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Mr. Mawae said the government leaders had further incentive to lobby Steelers ownership to sign a new contract since the team benefits from public tax subsidies, such as the Allegheny County sales tax revenues that help pay for Heinz Field. "It is incredibly disheartening to know that the passion of Pittsburgh Steelers fans and the local and state funds that have benefited the team in the form of land grants and other tax subsidies are apparently taken for granted by NFL owners like Mr. Rooney," he wrote.

Neither the Steelers front office nor Mr. Ravenstahl's office responded to requests for comment. Mr. Corbett will review the letter, his spokesman Kevin Harley said, but noted that the governor-elect has "many serious issues to deal with" after his inauguration, including the state budget due in March, which faces an estimated $4 billion shortfall.

The NFL's contract with the union expires March 4, and it is seeking to reduce the percentage of league revenues the players receive in the next deal. It may have to lock out players to achieve that, so the union has been aggressively fighting that possibility, through the letters to Mr. Ravenstahl and government leaders in the 31 other NFL team cities (including Mayor Michael Nutter in Philadelphia); decertifying its union locals (which could help in a court fight against a lockout, or against an imposition of work rules by the league); and holding rallies with local union leaders.

The union's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, hosted a party at a North Side bar with local union officials, fans and current and former players on Nov. 16.


Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.


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