- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2003

This week, the NFL held its first season kickoff on the National Mall. Law-enforcement, public works and transit officials worked with the league to help ensure a safe and successful event. Part of the agreement included compensation for those and other services. For its part, Metro agreed to provide extra services to handle the large rush-hour and late-night crowds. Metro initially estimated its costs at $64,000 and asked the NFL to send a check. The NFL said no, expecting taxpayers to foot their bill. That must not happen.

Metro knew before this week’s events that the NFL had no plans to pay, but, since it is the region’s premier public transit agency and crowds into the tens of thousands were expected, it went ahead away. This was unusual for Metro, which requests upfront money from other sponsors of large events — including non-profit organizations — and refunds the money if Metro recoups the costs from high ridership. An Aug. 19 letter from Metro requested a certified check from the NFL. While the initial estimate for extra service was $64,000, Metro officials said yesterday that the costs were only $57,000.

The NFL, however, is being a spoiled sport. “The transit system had proposed doing some things that we thought weren’t necessary,” the NFL’s vice president for public relations, Greg Aiello, told The Washington Post. Mr. Aiello also said that District’s emergency management chief, Peter LaPorte, told him that not paying Metro “was fine.”

Well, stiffing taxpayers is never fine with us.

Metro already is struggling with a $1.3 billion deficit over the next six years, and probably will not be able to accommodate increased ridership, particularly commuters. The shortfall also may mean less money for maintenance and upkeep. Although Metro finally increased its fares and parking fees (something we had urged officials to do long ago), taxpayers nonetheless will be shortchanged with crowded buses and trains.

$57,000 will hardly bankrupt the NFL. Yet, this issue is not a question of money per se. It is the principle of the issue of nonpayment. Metro and regional officials sound incensed enough to force the issue, and force it they should. In the clearest of terms, regional officials need to tell the NFL to send a check to Metro. We do not care whether the check is signed by someone in NFL corporate offices or by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. We simply want regional officials to tell the NFL to send the money or else.

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