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Updated: August 25th, 2013 4:20am
P.J.R.: Blaming Dayton and Legislature for stadium mess is absurd

P.J.R.: Blaming Dayton and Legislature for stadium mess is absurd

by Patrick Reusse
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Richard Pryor was doing a routine based on his visit to a state prison. He talked about meeting a fellow named LeRoy, who had been found guilty of multiple murders.

Richard asked LeRoy the reason for having killed an entire family, and LeRoy's response was: "They wuz home.''

Pryor's account of LeRoy comes to mind when wrong doers are put in a sympathetic light by the public and selected media members.

We're not talking about murder here, just a billion-dollar stadium deal that is getting increasingly screwed up, but it is absurd to watch portions of the public and the media point at the politicians rather than the Wilfs as being responsible for this mess.

A final stadium deal was in reach earlier this month, and then a New Jersey judge included damning words in a decision against in the Wilfs in a 21-year-old civil lawsuit.

The judge accused Zygi Wilf, the principal owner of the Vikings, of having shown "bad faith and evil motive'' with his own testimony. She also compared the Wilfs' conduct in the civil case to the "racketeering'' that takes place in criminal enterprises.

"Why didn't Gov. Mark Dayton and the legislators know about this case before they committed to a stadium deal with the Vikings and the Wilfs?'' comes the cry. "Why didn't they investigate the Wilfs' financial dealings before passing a stadium bill?''

The stadium bill was passed on May 10, 2012, under great pressure from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the Wilfs and, yes, many of us in the media. There was much reason to believe this was the moment when the politicians had to make a decision on the future of the Vikings in Minnesota.

Imagine the backlash from the NFL and the ridicule from the public and media if Dayton and legislative leaders had said this late in the 2012 session:

"We're going to wait until we get a decision on a two-decade-old lawsuit in New Jersey before we make a stadium deal with the Wilfs.''

The limited financials available on the Wilfs and their conduct as owners since taking over the Vikings in the summer of 2005 gave the decisionmakers at the State Capitol no reason for suspicion.

They had to act, one way or the other, on the information at the time, and by a majority chose to keep the Vikings.

They also signed off on what was going to be a lengthy process -- with power given to a new stadium authority -- before a final deal was reached. Six weeks before the self-imposed Sept. 15 deadline, the New Jersey judge made her blockbuster of a decision.

The stadium authority now had reason to demand much more financial information from the Wilfs. And, according to the lawyer hired to lead the authority's investigation, the Wilfs are not providing it -- thus, a mess.

Dayton and the Legislature can be blamed for this only because they were the politicians who "wuz home'' when it came time to take a vote on the NFL's future in Minnesota.



Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He co-hosts SportsTalk from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. and hosts The Ride with Reusse from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. He also co-hosts "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Patrick | @1500ESPN_reusse | The Ride with Reusse