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Thursday, August 27, 2020

Cavs, Indians and Browns Alliance Will Encourage Voting, Equality; Ignore Owners' Role in Draining City Resources

Posted By on Thu, Aug 27, 2020 at 10:19 AM

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The morning after the Milwaukee Bucks led a strike, refusing to play in last night's NBA playoff game in the aftermath of police shooting Jacob Blake seven times in the back, and after both the L.A. Lakers and Clippers announced they wouldn't play the remainder of the postseason, the Cavs, Indians and Browns have announced an alliance to "focus on improving the relationship between law enforcement and its citizens, encouraging nonpartisan voting activities and increasing the opportunities for quality education for everyone" in Cleveland and greater Northeast Ohio.

While last night's actions in both the NBA and MLB were driven by players, and while the same is true of NFL teams that have cancelled practices today, the alliance will be led by top executives from Cleveland's three professional sports teams, though the release noted players will have the opportunity to get involved. (The Browns already have a social justice committee, formed in 2019, that is made up of both players and organization executives.)

The alliance provided quotes from some of the participating coaches and GMs.

Koby Altman: “We have an extraordinary opportunity to make a lasting impact on society and the Cavaliers are committed to help bring about change. The social and economic disparity in our community reveals some ugly truths, and Coach Bickerstaff and I are honored to be at the table to address these issues with such a prominent group of our peers. We never take for granted our place in the fabric of Cleveland and hopefully our coming together inspires others to join us.”

Andrew Berry: “We understand the platform our organization has to make a positive impact on these important issues. When Coach Stefanski and I began discussing how we might be able to elevate and broaden that impact by expanding the dialogue to our counterparts in Cleveland, it quickly became apparent that partnering with the other teams in our city would help our region come together so we can collectively address the problems that we’ve all been working to help solve independently.”

Chris Antonetti: “We recognize the profound impact that professional sports have on the greater Cleveland community, and the enormous responsibility that comes with such a platform. While the circumstances that highlighted the need for this partnership are disheartening, Tito, Mike and I are excited by the opportunity to work with such a thoughtful and diverse group of leaders to identify opportunities to be a positive force for change. There is a lot of work to do, and we believe that this partnership will serve to amplify our collective impact.”

These things are nice, in theory.

Players deserve all the credit in the world for using their megaphones to advocate for change. Organizations, meanwhile, have long brandished their stature as popular civic treasures as cudgels to drain financial resources from the city and county to the detriment of the region.

If we're bemoaning social and economic disparity and longing for an active electorate in Cleveland, it's hard to square the discussion as an honest and open one when people like Dan Gilbert threaten to take their ball and go home when the citizens of Cleveland dare to try and put the issue of public subsidization of a billionaire — now one of the 30 richest people on the planet — before voters. It's nauseating to consider the tens and tens of millions of dollars the county will fork over for stadium and arena renovations, largely paid for by taking out bonds, because the sin tax well has run dry long before the appetites of Haslam, Dolan and Gilbert for taxpayer-funded toys. It's impossible to reconcile calls for an engaged electorate confident that their voices matter from the same folks who use their spare change to line up mayors, councilpeople and county executives who will do their bidding in the face of citizenry opposition. It's infuriating that Cleveland got upgrades to its "living room" but not mental health crisis centers. It's insane that the public owns these quickly depreciating assets while owners sit on endlessly appreciating teams that will turn into billion-dollar paydays whenever they choose to offload them.

If there ever were a moment for teams to look at themselves in an honest light and consider the role they've played in Northeast Ohio communities, now would be it.

And yes, they could start by paying taxes like the rest of us.

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