Who are the Real Champions of Sports Corruption?

sports-moneyGuest Post by Thomas Mattera

Though FIFA’s corruption scandal dominated headlines for weeks, the inevitable has happened: the revelations have slowed to a trickle and sporting world has started to move on. Most previously captivated onlookers will return to the scene of these crimes again for one of only two reasons: to see if the next two World Cups will be moved or if FIFA President Sepp Blatter will mercifully fulfill his currently hollow promise to resign.

In turning the page, many in the United States are confident that the sports they enjoy domestically are free from misconduct contained in the FIFA accusations.

Unfortunately, this is a serious misconception. Though FIFA and its Cups have deservedly garnered the spotlight for alleged misappropriation of public funds, cover-ups, and labor violations, American sports have many of the same issues. The important difference: here they have been legalized and, gradually, normalized.

It shocks the world when kickbacks and campaign finance illegalities facilitate a taxpayer-funded, $900 million World Cup stadium in Brazil that currently functions as a bus depot. Meanwhile, this is public policy as usual in the United States as massive amounts of American public dollars annually go to a small group of billionaires, leaving stadium boondoggles with features like a multimillion dollar aquarium behind home plate.

Heads roll at its Zurich headquarters when FIFA is accused of suppressing incriminating evidence. Across the pond, the National Football League never has to admit guilt as it litigates away its cover up of the discoveries it made regarding the serious health implications of playing football professionally.

Finally, there is no shortage of international coverage surrounding the fact the World Cup generates billions in profit while the impoverished, unrepresented construction workers who make it happen risk serious injury for almost no compensation. Strangely enough, there is an eerie American equivalent that, although often criticized, continues on mostly unchanged.

This is not to say that American sports are free from unsanctioned trespasses. One only has to look at the recent revelation that the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball allegedly hacked into the database of a rival team to be reminded of that.

Nor is futbol’s governing body without its own maneuvers that operate dubiously yet legally. Case in point: like the NFL did for decades, FIFA has billions in the bank yet still masquerades as a nonprofit to claim tax-exempt status.

However, the fact remains that the FIFA allegations captivated the the sporting world while events in American sports that yield similar outcomes go unpunished and comparatively unnoticed every day. Though their sport suffered great embarrassment over the past two weeks at least, world soccer fans can at least find solace in the fact that the sources of their sporting injustice have been revealed, reviled, and now hopefully redeemed. Unfortunately, that is far more than can be said for the everyday injustice of the sporting landscape of their fellow sports fans stateside.