LeBron James still isn’t worth $500m a year to Cleveland economy, people, get over it

While we’re on the subject of bad journalism, let’s check in with the Guardian, which is generally one of my preferred news outlets, even if it has a reputation for occasional sloppiness. I haven’t been following the paper’s sports coverage lately, so what’s it been up to?


Oh, wow, yeah, that’s not good.

To recap for those who missed the whole “LeBron is worth $500 million a year” fiasco when it broke last year:

  • A staffer for Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald was reported by Bloomberg News to have said that the Cleveland Cavaliers re-signing LeBron James would be worth $500 million a year to the local economy.
  • FitzGerald’s office said that Bloomberg got it wrong, and they were only claiming LeBron was worth $53 million a year in local economic activity.
  • Lots of people, including me, pointed out that even this lower number was pretty implausible, and the overall impact of LeBron’s presence was at most something on the order of a few million a year, of which maybe a few hundred thousand gets returned to the city or county as actual tax receipts.

So repeating a $500 million impact figure that even the person who conducted the study says isn’t true is not a good start. But then the Guardian doubled down by citing Convention, Sports & Leisure, a consulting group that really should come with a warning label reading “objects in studies may be less lucrative than they appear”:

Or as I replied to Waldron:


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7 comments on “LeBron James still isn’t worth $500m a year to Cleveland economy, people, get over it

  1. Not this again.

    The macro studies always exclude jobs figures, which are what really matter. “Per-capita income” is relatively meaningless.

    I strongly encourage you to look up the sales tax numbers for Cuyahoga County (since that’s the area whose taxes fund the arena) in May & June of 2014 and compare them to May & June of 2015. If those numbers are flat, then you might have a point.

  2. Ben: Every study of sales tax receipts in similar circumstances has shown zero measurable impact, as the linked Vice article above spells out in detail. But once sales tax data is available for spring 2014 vs. spring 2015 (it takes at least one quarter for it to be reported), I’ll happily report back on if Cuyahoga County shows otherwise.

  3. Okay, two points:

    1 ) “But if CS&L stopped repeating lies, what would they do for billable hours?” — ZING!

    2) Every city should get a LeBron James, the economic downturn would be kaput.

  4. Cuyahoga County may not seem to have a lot change in a year but I am guessing it would be impossible to tease out the impact of Lebron in sales tax collection from the impact of increased moving company services, robot purchases, or other changes.

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