Florida Stadiums Could Be Used As Homeless Shelters

This is either equal parts amazing and ridiculous:

As reported by the Miami Herald, state legislators have unearthed an obscure law that has not been enforced since it was adopted in 1988. It states that any ballpark or stadium that receives taxpayer money shall serve as a homeless shelter on the dates that it is not in use.

Now, a new bill would punish owners of teams who play in publicly funded stadiums if they don't provide a haven for the homeless. Affected ballparks would include the Miami Marlins' new ballpark in Miami's Little Havana, the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg and several spring training facilities. It also includes the homes of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Miami Heat, Jacksonville Jaguars and Florida Panthers. (Big League Stew)

My first instinct is to say that this is a shot across the bow at the Marlins and their new stadium; considering the sleazy way Jeff Loria extracted money from the local municipality, I wouldn't be surprised if the state government wanted to smack them with some extra regulations right now. But on reading more about the proposed bill(s), it seems more like the Florida legislature wants to take it out on everyone. Just listen to this quote:

"We have spent over $300 million supporting teams that can afford to pay a guy $7, $8, $10 million a year to throw a baseball 90 feet. I think they can pay for their own stadium," said Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, who is sponsoring the bill. "I can not believe that we're going to cut money out of Medicaid and take it away from the homeless and take it away from the poor and impoverished, and we're continuing to support people who are billionaires." (Miami Herald)

Woh there, watch out; that's some inflammatory rhetoric being tossed around there. I'm not saying Sen. Bennett doesn't have a point -- wouldn't it be really nice if sports teams took a more active role in helping the local community? -- but the way he's speaking about the issue seems calculated to elicit visceral, emotional responses from people.

The bill also would slap a fine on a team every time the black out a game on local television, which seems specifically designed to chastise the NFL for their blackout rule. I think the bill is penalizing teams for something outside their control -- it's the NFL that determines blackout policy, not the teams -- but it is still exciting to see some blow-back against the NFL blackouts.

So will this bill end up having any real effect on professional sports team in Florida? I doubt it. Odds are it won't pass, as it feels more like a publicity stunt and a "moral vote" than anything.

But if it did pass... well, wouldn't that be something? I can already see Joe Maddon thoroughly embracing the idea of making a homeless shelter at the Trop, considering he's already helping out the local homeless with his yearly Thanksmas event.

And Jeff Loria? I would pay to see his face when he gets told he has to turn his shiny new stadium into a homeless shelter. It'd be priceless. Absolutely priceless.

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