The Jacksonville Jaguars are only viable until they’re not.
That was the crux of what Mark Lamping and team attorney Paul Harden had to say yesterday at the Jacksonville City Council meeting when push came to shove about why the city should front up to $241 million for Lot J — an initiative that is little more than a pet project in terms of value to the city.
When City Council pushed back on what seemed to them to be a disproportionately large investment for what was being promised in return, Lamping implied that the team could leave whenever it wanted saying the franchise has been “a free agent” since Khan bought it in 2012.
Lamping and Harden argue the Jaguars owner Shad Khan is taking a risk, too, with more than $200 million in private capital investment. Lamping said the Jaguars have been "a free agent team" since he purchased the team in 2012.— Mike Mendenhall (@mimendenhall) December 8, 2020
If that was too ambiguous a threat, Harden decided to double down, according to Mike Mendenhall of the Jax Daily Record:
“Don’t you think for one minute people haven’t encouraged (Khan)” to look at former NFL cities like St. Louis.
Harden then followed that up with a closing line that brought about as much assurance as a faulty wood chipper.
“He likes Jacksonville.”
Oh, I’m sure he does.
Khan is able to have his cake and eat it too — holding the city hostage with (what look to be) empty threats of relocation while having projects like Lot J (which aren’t nearly as magnanimous as originally advertised) subsidized by taxpayer dollars.
If Jacksonville subsidizes Khan to the tune of $241 million, he’ll do more than just like the city. He might even make it Facebook official!
So, what does all this have to do with the Jaguars? This is a sports blog, right? Save this sort of stuff for the Metro section.
It has everything to do with the Jaguars.
First, the “wink and nod” threats by Khan and his team are veiled no longer. Mask off. They are openly threatening to relocate the team.
Second, and more confusingly, Lamping has put himself between a rock and a hard place. For years, Lamping has shouted “VIABILITY!” from the rooftops, explicitly stating multiple times that winning is not enough to be financially stable in Jacksonville. There must be other things to bring Jacksonville up into the competitive ranks of NFL markets.
The largest initiative to date was moving two home games to London — wiping out a full 25% of revenue opportunities to downtown businesses on game day.
But Blythe Brumleve put it perfectly: If the Jaguars are viable enough to fund a Lot J pet project worth nearly half a billion dollars, why aren’t they viable enough to keep all eight of our home games in Jacksonville?
so in @jaguars methodology, we're viable enough to fund $250M pet project next to the stadium but we're not viable enough to have all 8 of our home games?— Blythe Brumleve (@blythebrum) December 8, 2020
make it make sense.
That’s the question that needs to be asked and I’m afraid we’re not going to like the answer.
And more importantly, if ownership can be so brazen as to threaten to relocate the franchise over Lot J, what are they going to do when it’s time to negotiate a new stadium deal?
Khan, Lamping, and Harden have shown their cards. It’s time for City Council to stand their ground because if they can get bullied so easily now it’s going to look like 62-7 when larger deals come down the pike — and fans won’t like which side wins this time.
I’m sure Khan likes Jacksonville. The City Council needs to make sure he respects it too.