These days money is a big deal. With an economy still spiraling yet even further into recession, limited jobs, and many finding their salaries devaluing quickly the public has begun to scrutinize those at the top more closely. Elections since the 2008 economic crisis have seen the tax status of many politicians’ called into question and the public has a grown concern about just how much those with the most to give are actually contributing. Many would say that the NFL is contributing…to the problem. Holding non-profit status, the NFL enjoys all kinds of tax exemptions. This would not be an issue, since anon-profit status can only be obtained by keep all profit within an organization with no profit sharing, if it weren’t for the fact that the NFL receives a heft amount of tax payer help to keep their organization happy.
How Much the NFL pays?
The NFL is currently a $9 billion a year industry, yet it pays pretty much nill in taxes. The commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell makes around $30 million. With all of the revenue professional football makes it seems ludicrous that the NFL is hardly required to pay taxes, when small businesses across the country get hit hard and struggle for survival, but this is tax code we are discussing, not logic.
To put into context, the sheer amount of corporate welfare being given to the NFL—let us rundown some numbers and facts.
The Bengals like to tout their generosity and pat themselves on the back by referring to the $1 million they give back to Ohio community groups each year. $1 million is certainly nothing to scoff at, until you consider the Bengals finances. Taxpayers of Hamilton County, Ohio, which Cincinnati is a part of, footed a $26 million bill in debt service for the stadiums where the Bengals and Reds play, in addition to an extra $7 million to compensate for the operating costs of the Bengals’ field. Pro-sports subsidies surpassed the $23.6 million budgeted for them forcing the region cut from health-and-human-services expenses as well as education.
The Minnesota Vikings threatened to skip town if they didn’t get a new stadium. Minnesota legislatures, already dealing with a $1.1 billion budget deficit, conjured $506 million from taxpayers as a ‘present’ to the team, covering about half the cost of the new facility. Since the team is privately held, the team doesn’t have to disclose operating data, no matter how much it receives in the public subsidies. At the end of the day, Minnesota’s government bent under pressure and gave away public money without the Vikings’ disclosing any information in return. The team’s chief owner, Zygmunt Wilf, had an estimated worth a few years ago of $322 million. Taking into account their fancy new stadium, the Vikings’ worth has improved to about $200 million, putting more money in the owner’s pocket. The Vikings have stated they will make an annual payment of $13 million to use the stadium, keeping the most of all the NFL ticket, concession, parking, television revenues.
Unfortunately, these are only two examples among 32. This is just a taste of the corporate welfare offered to the NFL by our local governments on behalf and the backs of the American people. Regrettably, since the NFL holds nonprofit status, little can be done to make them earn their keep. Even less can be done about regulating the income they make from television deals, since telecommunications is not covered by antitrust laws as sports teams are rarely considered in matters of interstate trade and commerce. For now it seems that the NFL will continue to bask in the riches it shamelessly accepts from legislatures on behalf of the (largely struggling) American people.