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Friday, October 22, 2021

Column: Putting down Giant roots

The last time the Giants won the World Series the year was 1954; Willie Mays was the strength of the outfield, Dusty Rhodes led the offense with his clutch batting and the Giants were still in New York. That’s right, the New York Giants. Feels counterintuitive right? Like dividing by zero? Despite the fact that I can’t stand the Yankees, I encourage all you die-hard Giants fans to consider your team’s geographic roots next time you talk shit about Derek Jeter.

Fortunately, the now-San Francisco Giants are one of the biggest revenue pumps into Northern California, and it can only grow in the next two seasons by virtue of their World Series run. According to Forbes Magazine, The San Francisco Giants are worth $489 million to owner William Neukom between the sport, the market, the stadium and its brand management. Their annual revenue is over $200 million and they pay their players over half of that figure.

As a fan, I am invested at least emotionally in the well being of both the team and the Bay Area community it represents, a community I’ve been proud to be a part of my entire life. As responsible fans, the question we need to ask ourselves collectively is will the revenue from the World Series only benefit the franchise or can it play a larger role in the community it represents?

Parking at a Giants game has always been paradoxical for me. Unless you get there hours early, it’s hard to get a reasonable spot, and half the time you’re going to have to pay for it (especially this week). But if you park far enough away and take the time to absorb your surroundings, the insightful fan will notice a stark contrast between the grandeur of AT&T Park and the relative squalor of some of the areas that immediately surround it. Fans donning lifejackets drive hours to catch a homerun in an inflatable dingy, and those who live mere blocks away may not be able to afford a ticket to go inside the stadium that casts an early afternoon shadow over their home.

This walk highlights a flawed dynamic between a giant private enterprise (no pun intended) and the community that provides its revenue. The difference a fraction of the Giants $23.5 million annual profit could make in the lives of those members of the community it represents is heartbreaking. Major league sports teams do not exist inside a vacuum. Each one is tied to a municipality, to a unique lifestyle where many lack the means to even attend a game in person. Athletic entertainment should not be the only service an organization as large as the Giants provides. It should strive for the betterment of the community that has generously allowed it to call San Francisco home.

In the Giants’ defense, they are making efforts to reach out to the underserved youth of San Francisco. In 1991, they founded the Giants Community Fund, a non-profit that, according to their website, is “sustained by contributions from individuals, businesses and foundations.” Through this 501(c)(3) they started the Junior Giants, which aims to give “at-risk kids a meaningful partnership with community-based organizations and provide an alternative to drugs, gangs and crime.” By any metric, this is an incredibly generous step in the right direction. However, the fund boasts having raised over $12 million since its inception almost 20 years ago, a figure that amounts to only half of the team’s profit last season alone.

With this in mind, $12 million is dismal. Many major league sports teams are guilty of this brand of geographic treason, the only obvious exception to which is the Saints, who expected no commendation in return for their efforts to help New Orleans keep its head above water in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In this moment of national economic identity crisis, it is time private enterprises consider their geographic roots, too. They need to consider giving back to the communities that give so much to them, not because the government mandates it, but because it is the vehicle for a morally sound and conscientious society. The government shouldn’t necessarily have to get bigger for us to help those in need, but entrepreneurs and investors’ hearts might have to. Imagine a campaign season in which no candidate had to discuss raising taxes because their state’s NFL and MLB teams finance the difference.

At this point, if you find yourself laughing at my naïve perspective on the matter, consider that your proclivity for laughter at a concept so altruistic may be the inherent problem we’re facing.

If you are aware of ways other major league teams are going beyond the call to give back to the communities that fuel their revenue streams, please e-mail JOSH ROTTMAN at jjrottman@ucdavis.edu.

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