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NFL blasts AP writer for inaccuracies in Dolphins stadium renovation plan

Earlier this week, the Associated Press published an article attacking the NFL on several topics, including the Dolphins' public funding request for Sun Life Stadium renovations. Yesterday, the league fired back.

Rob Carr

Associated Press reporter Jim Litke this week posted a scathing attack on the NFL, challenging why new stadiums seem to be hosting Super Bowls. Included in his report, was a characterization that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was attempting to get the taxpayers of Florida to pay for a $400 million renovation to Sun Life Stadium.

Litke wrote:

In case you haven't been following the recent dust-up in South Florida over who's going to pay for the nearly $400 million in improvements the Dolphins want made to SunLife Stadium, here's all the background you need to know: Team owner Steve Ross wants taxpayers to foot the bill. In a rare bit of gumption, some state and local politicians blocked a referendum that would have put the matter to a vote.

What followed soon after were lamentations from Ross and his hired hands about all the money that South Florida was losing out on. Goodell delivered the same message in person to the state legislature earlier this month. But after Tuesday's vote, he let Rodney Barreto, chairman of South Florida's bid committee, rub it in.

"I suspect there's a couple of state reps down in Miami-Dade County where I live who are going to look at this and realize this was a huge mistake," Barreto said. "We had the better bid. I could just look at the body language from the NFL staff. It's a shame. We may not see another Super Bowl for another 10 years."

The last one in South Florida was only three years ago, and taxpayers there already shelled out much of the cash for new homes for the Heat and Marlins recently, but who's counting? Certainly not Goodell. He's made securing new stadiums for franchise owners - largely publicly-financed stadiums - every bit as much a signature issue as player safety. So far, as noted above, every town that helped build one since 2006 has been rewarded with a Super Bowl.

Litke also goes on to condemn the NFL for considering a move of the league's annual draft to May, stating that the move "likely means a conflict with Mother's Day and the NBA and NHL playoffs, plus three more weeks of endless hype."

And, to continue his diatribe against the league, Litke points out that a consideration of moving the annual Scouting Combine to March cold pit it against either the NCAA's Selection Sunday or the opening weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament.

Before we get to the NFL's response to Litke's post, my favorite line from his article is in his rant about the Dolphins. "In a rare bit of gumption, some state and local politicians blocked a referendum that would have put the matter to a vote."

Sounds like it's a good thing for the government to prevent the people from being able to vote for things.

But, that's not the point. The point is, when you come out on an attack on the NFL, you should probably have your facts straight. In a letter to Litke, NFL Spokeman Greg Aiello responded to the article. In his opening few paragraphs, Aiello wrote:

Dear Jim: I am compelled to respond to your column today because it is not only unfair but also inaccurate and misleading in many respects.

Steve Ross's stadium renovation proposal called for Mr. Ross to pay for 70 percent of the costs, as well as to bring Super Bowls and other marquee events to South Florida or pay a substantial financial penalty (in excess of $100 million) if he failed to do so. Your column neglected to mention those facts and inaccurately said that he wants "taxpayers to foot the bill," implying the entire bill.

Mr. Ross's proposed investment is consistent with stadium development throughout our league. There are 13 stadium projects in the pipeline now with 74 percent ($3.2 billion) of the costs being privately financed by NFL owners. Your column says that new NFL stadiums are "largely publicly-financed stadiums." That is not true. You completely overlooked the extraordinary amount of private money that is going into NFL stadium projects. Specifically, private investment accounts for 100 percent of the cost of the Jets/Giants' MetLife Stadium, more than 60 percent in Dallas, more than 90 percent in San Francisco, more than 70 percent in Atlanta, and more than 50 percent in Minneapolis.

NFL owners have awarded Super Bowls in part to recognize and thank communities and taxpayers for their investments (both financial and emotional) in our clubs and their stadiums. How is it arrogant to take the nation's top sports event, which indisputably brings with it significant economic benefits, and hold it in communities all over the country?

Aiello goes on to point out that sports such as the PGA, MLB, NBA, and NHL all play games on Mother's Day and Father's Day, while the NFL Draft only runs from Thursday to Saturday - which would not beover Mother's Day Sunday. He also points out that the April date the Draft currently uses is already during the NBA and NHL playoffs, so a date change would not change that.

Litke clearly is anti-NFL, using everything he can to argue about the evils of the country's biggest sport. He feels it is wrong for a sports league to expand and grow, despite that being exactly what every business in America is trying to do. Aiello takes apart his argument line by line, and points out "unfair and misleading" parts of it are.

Links to the full articles by both men are above. Check them out, and feel free to discuss in the comments below.

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