Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 2, Episode 20 - Stadiums - full transcript

John discusses how taxpayer money is funding private sports stadiums.

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Welcome, welcome, welcome,
to Last Week Tonight.

Thank you so much for joining us.
I'm John Oliver.

Just time for a quick recap
of the week.

And we begin with Iran.

Not just the setting for 2013
best picture winner Argo.

Also a country.

Now as of this morning

it seems Iran may be tantalizingly
close to a historic nuclear deal.

This could be a country
on the brink of a change.

A high-ranking Iranian official
telling us just a short time ago,

she is quite optimistic that a deal
will come in the next 24 hours.

Well, let's hope that is true.

Because these discussions
have been going for a year and a half.

They're almost tantric negotiations,

except in this case
we're all really hoping

that there is not a massive explosion
at the end of it.

If this deal is successful,

we will have come a long way
from earlier this week,

when it seemed tensions
between John Kerry

and Iran negotiator
Mohammad Javad Zarif

might sink the whole thing.

Kerry and Zarif were yelling
at each other so loudly,

that they could be heard
outside of the room.

Now, that sounds bad,
yes, that sounds bad.

Although it is actually preferable

to hearing the sound
of the two of them making up.

Just low moans
and the sound of what I hope

is someone scooping out
a cantaloupe.

The thing is it wasn't just Kerry,
the EU's Federica Mogherini

supposedly also got involved
in a heated dispute with Zarif,

resulting in him shouting:
"never threaten an Iranian."

Although she had
a very good explanation.

You wouldn't expect an Iranian and
an Italian negotiating in a cold way,

that is I would say,
part of our culture.

Of course it is.

We all know the three most famous
stereotypes of Italian culture

are that they have close family

they turn international negotiations
into shouting matches,

and they enjoy cooking pasta for dogs.
You know. Italians.

So let's move on,
let's move to Greece.

The most recent Greek tragedy,

and also the subject
of the other major negotiation

taking place in Europe this week.

Greece desperately
needs another bailout,

and it they can't reach
a deal with the Euro zone,

they may be forced
to abandon the Euro altogether.

Or to put it another way.

The so-called Grexit,
a Greek exit from the Euro zone.

To Grexit or not to Grexit.

I love saying the word Grexit though.
That just drives me crazy.

Yeah, Greece might Grexit.

Which is a pretty glib way to describe
something potentially catastrophic

that could devastate millions of lives.

A cutesy name doesn't make
a crisis less awful.

When a doctor tells you
you have anal warts,

it doesn't help if he
describes them as "booty bumps".

The main obstacle to a deal
seems to be trust at this point.

And the tone of some of the EU leaders
has frankly not helped.

Watch the former Belgian leader
address the Greek prime minister

just earlier this week.

You are talking about reforms,

but we never see
concrete proposals of reforms.

You have to downsize the public sector.

I know, it's difficult maybe
for a leftist, but it has to be done.

That might be the most insulting thing

I've ever seen an outsider
do to the Greek people.

And I am including this
scene from "Mamma Mia".

Please, someone call the UN.

We have a musical genocide
on our hands.

And look, neither side
is blameless in this dispute.

Greece is in this mess

because it spent money like a rapper
whose accountant is Nicholas Cage.

And as for the EU, their so-called fix
helped melt down the Greek economy.

They're like a doctor
trying to cure a patient

through a steady regime
of Jager shots and yelling.

So as of right now it is unclear
whether a deal is likely.

But if it happens, Greece can take
some consolation from the fact

that their new finance minister,
Euclid Tsakalotos,

would presumably
be signing the agreement.

And in perhaps the only
act of rebellion left open to them,

this is his actual signature.

And I'm pretty sure
that's the only reason he got the job.

"Look, it's pretty clear we're not
gonna get anything we want"

"from these negotiations."

"Whose signature
most looks the most like a dick ?"

And finally tonight...

the Confederate battle flag.

Also known as the Lynyrd Skynyrd

On Friday, South Carolina
got everyone's attention.

We begin with the breaking news.
For the first time in 54 years,

the Confederate battle flag no longer
flies on the statehouse grounds

in the state of South Carolina.



That's great ! Although, yes.
Yes, that objective is great.

Although maybe go a little easy
on the USA chants.

Because it's a good moment.

But I don't know
if it's a proud moment.

It should be the same feeling

as a 54-year old
finally losing his virginity.

"Yes, I did it !"

Although that probably should've
happened a lot sooner.

And also, before anyone
gets carried away,

there are still plenty
of racist symbols on display

in government-run institutions,
from the state flag of Mississippi,

to Vestavia Hills, Alabama,

where they're currently considering
changing one high school's mascot.

The Rebel Man logo is a caricature
of an old South plantation owner.

At Vestavia High sporting events,
a student dresses up as Rebel Man,

the Civil War soldier,
and fires up the crowd.

There's nothing racist about it.

A Confederate flag
with its direct ties to racism,

taking that down is drawing a line.

But when you're starting
to bicker over a caricature,

you're not drawing lines anymore,
you're splitting hairs.

Okay, here's the problem with that,
and not to split hairs,

but your logo
is a plantation owner.

And saying that
the image of a plantation owner

is not used in a racist way

is a bit like arguing
the Hitachi magic wand

is only used as a back massager.

Oh, sure, maybe you only
use it that way.

But al lot of other people
use it very differently.

Listen, I'm gonna... I want to try to
give them the benefit of the doubt here

and assume that the only thing holding
them back from replacing their mascot

is the need for a new costume.

And that would make sense.
Costumes are expensive.

But here's where
we may be able to help you.

We've made a lot of mascots
on this show.

You may remember,
we made a space sex gecko,

a polar bear with a broken penis,

an illuminati pyramid.

And any number
of other ridiculous costumes.

They're really good costumes.

And tragically, most of them
are in storage right now.

Our office looks like a wealthy furry's
basement, and you need to help us.

So listen, Vestavia Hills,

if you get rid of your objectively
racist logo and mascot,

you can have any of these you want.

In fact, this offer is open

to all high schools with pointless
offensive mascots or team names.

I'm talking to you, the Freeburg
Community High School Midget.

What the fuck were you
thinking with that ?

And for the record,

this offer is also absolutely open to
the Washington Redskins, as well.

Get in touch, but do it quick !

Supplies are limited, and act fast.

You do not want to get stuck with
creepy baby with hulk hands in a tutu.

And now, this.

And now...

Whoopi Goldberg defends
ten surprising things.

Bill Cosby.

He's not been proven a rapist.

Roman Polanski.

I don't believe it was a rape, rape.

Ray Rice

If you hit somebody, you cannot be sure
you are not going to get hit back.

Chris Brown

Nobody knows what happened,
so all you haters out there,

just find something else to hate
till you get all the facts.


There are other countries
that have done

it and it's reaped
quite good benefits for them.

Jesse James cheating on
Sandra Bullock.

This is really wrong to say...

No, it's not, it's nobody's fault.

Her decision to appear in the 2014
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" film.

- They love pizza. I love pizza.
- Me too.

Moon landing conspiracy theories.

There are a couple questions
that I do have from time to time.

Who shot the footage ?

Mel Gibson.

I know Mel
and I know he's not a racist.

- Really ?
- Yeah, I do.

And finally, her own career goals.

I want to become
an ambassador to a country.

And... yeah, you wouldn't mind me
being an ambassador, would you ?

And now...

Moving on...

Our main story tonight
concerns sports.

The thing you weren't quite good
enough at for your dad to love you.

I absolutely love sports.

In fact the only times
I've cried as a grown man

have been while watching
actors playing coaches

deliver inspirational speeches
set to stirring music.

This game is not over.

This battle is not over.

Listen up ! This is our time now.
Second half is our time.

Because we know
when we add up all those inches

that's gonna make the fucking
difference between winning and losing.

Clear eyes, full hearts.

Hey let's go play some football !
Let's go, baby !

Yes !

I'll do anything that man says.

We are all lucky that Kyle Chandler
is not a Scientologist

or I would be broke and married
to Mimi Rogers right now.

That's a fact. That's a true fact.

But look, tonight we're not gonna talk
about the players on the field,

we're gonna talk about
the fields themselves.

Stadiums. America has a lot of them

and they are increasingly fantastic.

At the home of the Dallas Cowboys
here's what you also get:

real art
by world-renowned artists.

The party suite is all about
watching the game or concert in style.

You can do bottle service, you can
set up come in before the game.

You know, you get the snakeskin,
they add the gold "H"

so everybody knows
where you're sitting.

There are 14 party cabanas and
two pools watched by lifeguards

that looked out on the field.
Just look toward the end zone.

Yep, those swimming pools
are inside the stadium.

That's right. You can now watch
a game from a swimming pool

suspended above the field,
where the real contest for the fans

is finding out whether or not
HPV can swim.

Hey, my money's on HPV.
That's a clutch, STD. That's clutch.

Most new stadiums nowadays

look like they were designed
by a coked-up Willy Wonka.

And if you don't believe me,

just look at what the Miami Marlins
have in their new ballpark.

That's a fish tank around the
whole park. That is awesome.

Yes. The Marlins have actual
aquariums behind home plate.

Which is indeed awesome,
because you get to watch baseball

while at the same time watching fish
develop panic disorders.

And look: all those new features
are clearly incredible.

The problem is they're also expensive.

And the vast majority of stadiums
are built using public money.

One analysis
found that between 2000 and 2010

we spent 12 billion dollars
building new facilities

for professional teams.
Which begs the question: why ?

Sports teams are successful
businesses with wealthy owners

and yet they still get our help.

Two years ago, Detroit got approval

to spend more than $ 280 million
in taxpayer money

on a new arena project
for the Red Wings,

just six days after the city
filed for bankruptcy,

even though the Red Wings owner
is Mike Ilitch,

the founder of the
Little Caesars Pizza chain

who's worth an estimated $ 5,1 billion.
That's a little hard to swallow.

I mean sure not as hard to swallow

as a little Caesars crazy bread
with an assortment of "Caesar dips",

but still pretty hard.

And we don't just help teams
build stadiums,

we let them keep virtually all the
revenue those stadiums then produce.

Just listen to the president
of the Miami Marlins

describe their
not at all unusual deal.

You get the income
from naming rights ?


- You get the income from concessions ?
- Yes.

- You get the luxury box income ?
- Yes.

You get the income
from non-baseball events ?

That's the whole object of this,
is to get more revenue.

That's... that's pretty direct.

Hey, you think I've got into this
'cause I like sports ?

What are you, a child ? Who let
a child host a television show ?

This is all about the money, son.
The money !

He mentioned naming rights
in there and it is true.

For most teams,
if you sell the name of your building,

you get to keep the money.
Even when it's a stupid is this.

The New Orleans Pelicans are
going to be playing their home games

at the Smoothie King Center.

Yeah, the Smoothie King Center.

And you have to feel
a bit for the Pelican players.

It can't be easy
to protect your home court

when it's named after a slop of yogurt
and kale ejaculated from a blender.

But owners monetizing every part
of a stadium is so ingrained,

it's even now a feature
in the Madden NFL video game.

We're adding the ability to run
your team as an NFL owner.

Being an owner isn't just about talking
though, it's about taking action.

Set prices on concessions
merchandising tickets.

Upgrade your stadium,

improve everything, from
the parking lot to the locker room.

It's incredible. The owner experience
is apparently so realistic

that if you unlock a secret level

you can even deal with the aftermath
of making a racist comment.

That's... incredible attention
to detail for gamers.

Teams are so successful
at pushing for upgraded stadiums

that since the early 90s we've had
a replacement rate of over 90 %.

We replace stadiums even faster
than we replace Spidermen.

And come on !
Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield

were perfectly good
state of the art Spidermen.

Almost every single team
gets some kind of public money.

Some, like the Yankees,
might build the stadium themselves

but on land that they're given
rent and property tax free,

costing New York City
hundreds of millions in lost revenues.

But many others
get their stadiums funded

through tax-exempt
municipal bonds,

which, yes, sound like
the last words an accountant says

before his blind date falls asleep
at the dinner table.

But they're actually
incredibly important,

so let me quickly try to explain.

Municipal bonds are a way
for the city to take out a loan

which they then later repay
with interest,

although usually
through new or existing taxes.

They're supposed to be
for things like roads or schools,

public goods the private industry
would not pay for.

But they've been routinely
misused to finance stadiums for decades

and often cities do it
because teams claim

they can't afford to build
stadiums themselves.

The Marlins got nearly
500 million dollars

toward their fish traumatizing
theme park by pleading poverty

although when Miami-Dade County
tried to verify that,

something strange happened.

Among the questions they asked
was "can we see your books".

- You said no.
- Right.

Why didn't you just open the books ?
Why isn't that easier ?

Because in Major League Baseball
history, books are just kept private.

That's just how it is.

Sure. But if the argument

"in Major League Baseball history
that's just how it is" always won,

we'd still have an all-white league
of players gambling on games

smoking cigarette to the plate
and dying of syphilis.

But then leaked documents
later revealed

that despite denying
they made a profit

the Marlins had generated nearly $50
million over the previous two years.

And listen:
pretending you're poor is wrong.

It wasn't okay when Mary-Kate Olsen
went through her hobo phase.

And it's not okay now.

And we haven't even mentioned
the ultimate bargaining chip

that teams like to use:
threatening to leave.

Right now, the Oakland Raiders,
the St. Louis Rams

and the San Diego Chargers are all
threatening to move to Los Angeles

unless they get new stadiums.

In fact, over the past two decades

nearly half the NFL has been subject
to speculation about a move to L.A.

It's such a cliché,

that in the current Madden video game
if you want a new stadium,

a good way to do that
is to relocate the team.

And the game even tells you
the "easiest choice financially"

is guess where ? Los Angeles.

And if you're a Chargers fan
that must be pretty infuriating.

Oh, come on ! Even my make-believe
escapist entertainment

he's trying to move
my fucking team to L.A. !

In fact, Charges fans are currently
so terrified their team might leave,

not only are they campaigning to
spend public money on a stadium

they're doing it in one
of the worst rap songs of all time.

Die Hard fans
almost went on a rampage.

I tell no lies,
I hope you understand why.

Got the best of the best fans.
Other teams are hating on them.

They deserve a brand new stadium.

San Diego, the finest city.

San Diego, the second-largest city.

Save our Bolts, save our committee.

San Diego making money
so put it back in your city.

Wait, wait ! Go back !

Did he say "second largest city" ?

That is a strange boast
for a rap song.

"Yo I got the second hottest car
'cause I'm the second most paid,"

"when I go to the club
I get the second most laid !"

Second most. Second most.

"I'm out there. I'm number two, yo !
Number two !"

And teams are shameless
in manipulating city's fears.

In 1997, the Minnesota Twins
even ran an ad

showing a player visiting a child in
hospital with cancer and the tagline:

"If the twins leave Minnesota,
an eight year old from Willmar"

"undergoing chemotherapy will
never get a visit from Marty Cordova."

Which is less like
the Make-a-Wish Foundation

and more like
the make-a-threat foundation.

But teams don't just use threats
to get what they want.

They also promised that new stadiums
can work economic magic.

The Milwaukee Bucks, who are
also currently threatening to leave

if they don't get a new arena
are running this ad now.

The ripple effect starts here.

This is Wisconsin's home.

From the court to concerts,

transforming the community

with new development, jobs,
growth and opportunity.

The ripple effect of a new era
begins today.

It spreads across the riverfront,
up through Bronzeville

and across
the great state of Wisconsin.

Settle down, Milwaukee Bucks.

For a start, don't think Wisconsin will
be transformed by one new arena.

And also if you really are looking
to make a tangible change,

how about coming up with a better
slogan than "fear the deer".

Deers aren't scary.

They're timid forest ponies
with sticks on their heads.

I fear no deer.

The truth is stadiums very rarely
revitalize their surrounding areas

or create large numbers
of permanent jobs.

Just listen to one bar owner
near that new Marlins ballpark.

He says since
the stadium opened in 2012,

not only of his profits not risen,

on game days, his regulars
stay away afraid of the traffic.

Here as a business owner,
we don't see any changes.

You could even
say it's hurting us.

Of course it is.
Because no one has ever said:

"Hey, let's go hang out
in the area around the stadium !"

"And I'll tell you why,
I've got a new shirt"

"and I really want someone to vomit
Miller Light and nachos all over it !"

In fact, a major review
of almost 20 years of studies

showed economists could find
"no substantial evidence"

"that stadiums had increased jobs,
incomes or tax revenues."

Or to put that another way,

This one economist said to me,
I love this line, he said,

"Rather than spend
a billion dollars on a stadium"

"you're actually better off
flying a plane over a city"

"and dumping a billion dollars
on the populace"

"and just letting them pick
up the money and spend it."

Sure, look. Yeah.
That's not, to be fair...

That it's not a great idea
for the economy

but is a fantastic idea
for a new reality show.

"Tune in this Sunday for Ryan
Seacrest's billion dollar-dump."

"Only on NBC."

And it gets one step worse

because when you use public
money to pay for an expensive stadium,

you might find yourself unable
to afford something you badly need.

Hamilton County in Ohio was
estimated to spend 50 million last year

on debts and other costs
for the Bengals and the Reds stadiums

even though since building them
they've had to sell a public hospital,

cut 1,700 jobs and delay payments
for schools, because of budget gaps.

And it might not even end there,

because there's a clause
in the contract that states

if 14 other NFL
stadiums have something,

then taxpayers
must buy the Bengals that thing.

And here is how comprehensive
that clause is.

Taxpayers are also on the hook for
all kinds of future bells and whistles.

Some that haven't even been
invented yet.

At some point taxpayers
have also agreed to pay

for a holograph replay machine,

It's true, the Bengals have a deal

whereby if someone invents holographic
instant replay in the future

the county has to buy it for them.

And that's the kind of clause owners
put into a deal

in order to take it out
during negotiations.

Which begs the question
what else was in there ?

"Look, we want a helipad,
a submarine dock"

"and a monkey named Professor Bananas"

"to hang out in the locker room
during halftime"

"or we're moving the team to L.A."

But teams get these deals because
they know politicians will capitulate

and give them whatever they want.

Rremember Milwaukee ?
Well, just Monday, just this Monday,

their mayor argued for a new
stadium deal he admits is not perfect,

with this appeal to civic pride.

I was in China ten years ago.
I was on the Great Wall of China

and I had a Milwaukee t-shirt on,
and I'm on the Great Wall of China

this guy Chinese guy came up to me said
"Milwaukee Bucks".

That's important to me,
it's important to all of us.

Okay, okay...

The only possible way
that story is true

is if that Chinese man happened to be

former Milwaukee Bucks player
Yi Jianlian.

"Hey, remember me ?
Milwaukee Bucks."

"Two seasons ! I averaged 8,6 a game.
Milwaukee Bucks !"

And you can almost sympathize,

because when politicians do try to
stand up to teams, it can cost them.

Last month the city council
of Glendale Arizona

voted to try and get out
of an awful deal with the Coyotes

whose hockey arena was costing
them more than $8 million per year.

The mayor held a public hearing,
and it did not go well.

I support this team.

It's you that doesn't support
any sport in this city

not football and certainly not hockey.

What you're doing is childish, it's
pathetic and it's just disrespectful.

While I can see her passion is real,

you don't get to call someone childish
when you are the one arguing

for spending millions of public
dollars you don't have

to keep a giant slab of ice in Arizona.

Just days after that,
Coyotes fans raised money,

so that she could tase
the mayor for charity.

Taser, taser, taser.

Go, go, let me out !

Okay, first of all...

Do you have to say "taser"
three times

before tasing someone ?
You're not tasing Beetlejuice.

And second: no one should
want to stadium so badly

they're willing to electrocute
an old man for it.

And look, I know sports can make people
behave irationally.

For instance, somewhere,

there is a man with this actual tattoo
of Tim Tebow as a centaur.

That makes no sense.

But we have to come to our senses
and stop signing these deals.

And if you thinking, "well, John
there's no way it's just too hard."

Let me persuade you to fight back
in the only way that I know works:

an inspirational halftime speech
set to music.

So you know what, let's do it.

Please, American sports fans,

I'm going to need you to join me
in the locker room.

It turns out we need
to have ourselves a talk.

An emotional inspiring talk.

So gather round.

And at home
you might want to take a knee.

I know things look bad out there.

These owners have been humiliating
us for decades.

And sure, we could just give up.

We could roll over and let them
do it to us for another 20 years.

We could do that.

Or... right here Tonight !

We could decide to fight back !

And I'm not saying we shouldn't have

giant aquariums in ballparks,
full of terrified fish.

Of course we should.
This is America.

If we don't have them,
no one else will.

But we should not be using
public money to pay for them.

And yeah, teams might threaten
to leave you.

That might happen.

But I happen to believe
that your cities

are more than just the teams
who happen to play there.

St. Louis, stand up !
Stand up, St. Louis and look at me !

You're more than just the Rams !

You're a proud Midwestern metropolis.

You're home of the St. Louis Arch !

San Diego !

You're the second largest city
in California !

That's not nothing !
That's a solid number two.

And you Cincinnati.

You're the home
of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame !

That's Cleveland.

Well, you're the hometown
of astronaut Jim Lovell

and Emmy award-winning
actress Carol Kane !

- That's Cleveland as well.
- Shit, I'm sorry.

You might have
to hang on to the Bengals.

But for the rest of you...

I want you to look deep down inside
your heart I want you to dig in there,

and I want you to find something.

And it's gonna seem tiny, but it's the
most powerful thing in the world.

And it's the word "no".

So when a billionaire asks you

to buy him a hologram machine
that doesn't exist yet,

what are you gonna say ?

- "No !"
- That's right !

And when they ask you for public money
without opening their books

what are you gonna say to him ?

- No !
- That's right !

And when they ask you
if they can keep all the money

for calling their arenas
"Smoothie King Center"

what are you gonna
say to them ?

- No !
- Fuck, no ! That's right.

Because that's a stupid name
for anything, even a smoothie store.

So listen to me,
'cause I want you all to get out there,

and the next time a team comes around
asking for a new stadium,

I want you to make them pay !

- What are you gonna do ?
- Make them pay !

- What are you gonna do ?
- Make them pay !

- What are you gonna do ?
- Make them pay !

- Clear eyes, full hearts !
- Can't lose !

Let's go do this !
Let's go make them pay !

Let's go make them pay !
Let's go do this !

That's our show.
Thank you for watching.

See you next week.
Good night.

Make them pay !

Make them pay !

Make them pay !

Make them pay !

Season 2 Episode 20