The Hidden Poverty—and Official Hypocrisy—Surrounding the Super Bowl

Print Share on LinkedIn More

February 4, 2011; Source: Dallas Morning News | A stone's throw from Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where Super Bowl XLV was played last night, 74 people typically sleep at the Arlington Life Center's homeless shelter, another 50 at the Salvation Army's Family Life Center, and others sleep at the city's women's shelter for victims of spousal abuse.

The director of the Arlington Life Center says that 1,000 people use the shelter annually and the typical nighttime count is 100. Another nonprofit director in Arlington contrasts poignantly the upscale malls and gated communities of south Arlington with "the day laborers and the homeless on Cooper Street." The methodology by which Tarrant County officials concluded that there are only 14 chronically homeless people in the County is difficult to guess, but so be it.

Some poor and homeless will benefit from some of the lavish Super Bowl fundraising parties to be held in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but others say they are being pushed aside like so much trash.

Carmen Electra was the celebrity host of the "Best Party In Texas" with Habitat for Humanity among its charity beneficiaries. The price of a ticket for the fundraiser was $1,000 for the 1,400 people estimated to attend. Wide receiver Terrell Owens was featured at the Jam Sports' Gridiron Celebrity Hoops XIII event which benefited youths in foster care. Three thousand people shelled out between $500 and $6,000 a ticket to attend the "Taste of the NFL" benefiting the North Texas Food Bank. Willie Nelson is also performing that evening at an eponymous event, with 1,500 guests paying $200 a ticket, and a portion of the proceeds slated to go to the SPCA of Texas which found homes for over 7,000 homeless pets in 2009.

This is no criticism of Carmen Electra, Terrell Owens, or the long time philanthropically minded Willie Nelson, all no doubt sincere in their desire to raise money for charities helping the poor in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but the NFL, and Dallas and Fort Worth are doing no favors for the homeless this year. Homeless people in Arlington reported more harassment by local police in the run-up to the Super Bowl. In Dallas, where the homeless are also being moved along, the City Council outlawed panhandling around the venues where the rich and famous will be hanging out for the big game, with fines up to $500 for asking for a little spare change.

The ultimate hypocrisy was perpetrated by the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. A DCVB "mystery man" awarded Ouida Wright and her boyfriend Aaron Hermes of Green Bay, Wis. a Super Bowl ticket package worth $10,000 for a weekend of festivities because they said the magic phrase, "Have you been to Dallas recently?"

Wright is homeless, unemployed, and owes over $1,100 for bail jumping and parking tickets, living in a homeless shelter for the past two months, but she'll get a weekend at the game . They'll shoo away dozens and dozens homeless from the game, out of eyesight and out of panhandling proximity, but pay for an extravagant weekend for two homeless people from Wisconsin.—Rick Cohen

  • Jo England

    OUTRAGEOUS!!!!! not to mention all of the people in the Arlington school district that lost their jobs the Monday following the super bowl. The districts budget has been cut DRAMATICALLY. so our city hosts’ the SUPER BOWL in the stadium we HELPED fund, yet we cant find funds for the education of our children or for our homeless residents! Im so angry and sad at the same time. 😥

  • rick cohen

    Dear Jo: So you mean that they fired people in the Arlington School District while the NFL put up $1 million and Jerry Jones (through his foundation) for the creation of an NFL-sponsored Youth Education Town for helping at-risk kids in Arlington ( Something feels even more hypocritical about Arlington’s city fathers and mothers. Thanks for telling us about the school firings.


  • Gerry E

    There aren’t supposed to be any day laborers in Arlington. It’s the largest city in America without public transportation & it can NOT consider public transportation for the next 30 years, because all of it’s sales tax money is commited to pay for Jones Town. Tax pays all – Jerry Jones pays nothing.

  • rick cohen

    Thanks for the comment, Gerry. You’re raising another question too, which is whether public financing of sports stadiums are worth the public investment, whether they generate the benefits that their advocates suggest, and what communities give up in order to be able to pay for these facilities. I believe that there is a recent study from the GAO or CRS that raises some hard questions about tax exempt financing for sports facilities. It would be an interesting debate for nonprofits to join, since they are directly and indirectly affected by the public investment decisions of municipalities, counties, and states putting money into sports facilities like this one.