On Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver gave a rousing locker room pep talk to cities across the country, with a simple message: Stop spending public funds on lavish sports stadiums. Since the early ’90s, Oliver notes, the replacement rate for stadiums has been more than 90 percent. To pry dollars from taxpayers’ pockets, teams often feign poverty and go panhandling to the city. And when that doesn’t work, they make claims that the money will make it back to the community—despite the fact that a growing body of economic research suggests that it never really does. And while team owners might put on rags to go before taxpayers, the stadiums are not modest structures, coming tricked out with swimming pools and—in the case the Miami Marlins’ ballpark—an aquarium that surrounds the entire field.
But of course sports fans love the drama of the game, so Oliver ended the segment by taking his message to the locker room. “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.” Just, maybe stop allowing teams like the Miami Marlins to pretend they’re poor so they can spend taxpayer money to build them.