In the lead up to this Sunday's Super Bowl XLVIII, an advocacy group calling itself SackNFLTaxBreaks.org announced its formation "to sack the National Football League's anti-fan behavior, its nonprofit tax-free status, as well as the overall government subsidization of the league."
Co-founded by "New Orleans Saints fan Lynda Woolard" and Ryan Rudominer, "a proud shareholder of the Green Bay Packers, the NFL's only publicly owned team," the group says it hopes to "bring together supporters from associations, nonprofits, unions, corporations, government, journalism, think tanks, academia, the law, and leading advocacy organizations from across the political spectrum."
Their advocacy, to date, is largely built upon a petition launched last year by Woolard calling on Congress to revoke the non-profit, tax-exempt status of the National Football League. Her petition, so far, has obtained more than 300,000 signatures.
On their home page, the group notes that "Despite making $10 billion annually in profits, and paying Commissioner Roger Goodell a whopping $29.5 million dollars-a-year (15 times more than the nonprofit tax-free league gives to charity), the NFL receives a billion dollars annually in government assistance."
The NFL is a separate entity from the individual teams in the league, which do pay taxes. At least two U.S. Senators, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn and Maine independent Angus King (who caucuses with the Democrats), have recently "started a push to end" the NFL's non-profit status.
While the movement to end the NFL's special tax breaks is relatively new, the issue of corporate welfare via professional sports has been the subject of previous, blistering critiques...
Author Greg LeRoy, in his aptly named The Great American Jobs Scam (2005), cites Roger Noll and Andrew Zimbalist's Sports, Jobs and Taxes (1997) reveals how professional sports teams, owned by some of the wealthiest Americans, have duped both voters and locally elected politicians into publicly funding stadium and arena construction. As Noll and Zimbalist observed, "independent work on the economic impact of stadiums and arenas has uniformly found that there is no statistically positive correlation between sports facilities construction and economic development." Yet, the teams, citing their own paid economists, have consistently presented claims of jobs creation based upon what LeRoy describes as "faith-based economics."
The result is a drastic enhancement of the values of the privately owned teams.
One classic example involved George W. Bush, who, in 1989, invested $600,000 to purchase a share of the Texas Rangers baseball team. "Bush and his partners," LeRoy observed, persuaded "voters in...Arlington [TX] to approve a sales tax increase to pay more than two-thirds of the cost of a lavish new $191 million stadium and a surrounding development that included an amphitheater, shops, and restaurants. The lucrative deal," LeRoy added, "allowed the Rangers to collect rent from all the nearby facilities."
In 1998, Thomas Hicks, a leveraged buy out billionaire from Dallas, purchased the team for $250 million. A scant nine years after Bush invested the $600,000, he got the mine while Arlington taxpayers got the shaft. His taxpayer-subsidized investment resulted in a sweet $14.9 million profit.