Op-Ed: The Peyton Manning Statue

October 9, 2017

“Peyton Manning was immortalized on Saturday. His likeness will tower some 13 feet over the northern entrance of Lucas Oil Stadium after the long-promised bronze statue was unveiled in a ceremony attended by an estimated 10,000 fans.” — Stephen Holder in the Indianapolis Star

by Fred McCarthy

“Immortalized”? Now really, a 13-foot bronze statue of a football player was put on display. But since the paper has used that word we feel free to use another — “Idolatry.”

Two sections of this Sunday’s Indianapolis Star gave us about four full pages of text and pictures glorifying the persona and the career of Peyton Manning. We’re told he helped turn Indianapolis into a “world class” city. We are also given, without a trace of embarrassment or remorse, an admission by then Gov. Mitch Daniels that the city and state submitted to a three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar case of extortion by the Indianapolis Colts.

For under threats by the billionaire owner to move the football team, taxpayers were put on the hook for a new stadium — probably forever, based on the history of how this kind of debt is handled. That same owner, speaking of Manning, is quoted as saying the stadium “is an incredible facility that that man built.” (Our emphasis.)

Even given the history of the outrageously favorable treatment that local government and media have handed professional sports, it is a little — only a little — surprising that the words “tax” or “taxpayer” do not appear on those four pages. Wouldn’t the statue be more realistic by showing Manning standing on the shoulders of an individual labeled “taxpayer?” As it is, one might think that Mr. Manning not only financed the building but even laid on the brick and mortar personally.

We congratulate Mr. Manning on a wonderful football career. We thank him for the many good things he has done for the city. But we should remember that all this was not a charitable operation. He was paid several million dollars over these same years, as opposed to the average taxpayer who could not afford to watch him perform in “his” building. But again, we thank him, and we wish him well in the future.

For the paper, we would hope for a truer, more realistic and less over-stated, boosterish and  saccharine approach to reporting in the future, including an objective look at municipal tax dollars being handed to the owners of professional sports teams.

By the way, who paid for the statue? Did we miss that?

Fred McCarthy, an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and editor of the blog indytaxdollars, represented various taxpayer and business organizations before the Indiana General Assembly for 40 years, being awarded a Sagamore of the Wabash by two governors along the way.


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