How The NFL Steals From America

The NFL isn’t just stealing from America by charging too much for tickets, it’s stealing high paying jobs while not paying its fair share of taxes.

Patrick Hruby writes for SportsonEarth.Com and his most recent article in Politico is entitled, ‘The National Freeloader League.’ Patrick not only accuses the NFL of paying zero taxes, he also says football teams drain our economy, creating low-paying jobs while tax payers subsidize stadiums they can’t afford to step foot in. Patrick says the NFL socializes the risk and privatizes the profits. 

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David: Patrick, I watched the Superbowl yesterday. Why do you hate our troops?

Patrick: Well, I love Budweiser, can we find some common ground there? They love the troops. Even by NFL standards and Superbowl standards it was a weirdly flag-wrapping, overtly patriotic spectacle and you know what they say about patriotism and scoundrels and last refuges. Maybe it’s telling about the cultural place that the NFL is at right now. It’s almost defensive, in a way.

David: The commercial didn’t say that Budweiser loves our troops, they love one troop.

Patrick: Which was also, kind of, weird, and again, you know, there’s a fine line between trying to do something nice and celebratory and yes, even patriotic for our military. Almost everybody thinks it’s a good idea. And going over that line into using all of that for crass self promotion, wrapping yourself in the flag and using it as a way of deflecting legitimate criticism and I just sort of felt uncomfortable with it last night.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earns $29 and a half million a year running a tax-exempt corporation.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earns $29 and a half million a year running a tax-exempt corporation.

David: We had Andrew Bacevich, the military historian, on our show. He’s also a West Point graduate who served in Vietnam and he calls this spectacle ‘cheap grace.’ Americans get a false sense of patriotism and helping the troops by welling up when they see one soldier returning and some fireworks. And then they can get back to watching the game and being exploited by Budweiser. Patrick, you write that the NFL is going to make $9 billion this year.

Patrick: That $9 billion, and actually, it’s $9 and a half billion and by sum estimates, closer to $10 billion, it includes everything. So, what the teams are bringing in at the gate through ticket sales, what the league is bringing in through its various television contracts, which is really where the big money is and all the sort of ancillary money they make selling jerseys and licensing NFL logos for t-shirts and all those sorts of things. So, we’re talking about a pretty large industry and definitely the biggest in American domestic sports.

David: More than baseball?

Patrick: Yes, they’re bringing in more than baseball, though baseball has been going up for recent years but the NFL is still the juggernaut.

David: How much does NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earn?

Patrick: The last reported year, which was the tax returns of the NFL in 2012, he brought in $29 and a half million.

David: A year.

Patrick: A year, which is a pretty significant sum. Now, if you get into what I talk about in the article how the NFL front office, which Roger Goodell is the head of, is a tax exempt organization, Roger Goodell’s salary dwarfs that of other CEO’s of tax exempt organizations, such as the United Way, Red Cross, things like that. You’re seeing maybe salaries in the $1 to $2 million range for most charitable non-profit organizations.

David: Right, but Roger Goodell pays taxes on his salary.

Patrick: Yes, he does pay taxes on his salary and something to be clear about, in terms of the tax exemption here, the NFL teams are paying taxes on the money they’re bringing in and the league is paying taxes on the for profit parts of the league, the TV deals and things like that they do. But the front office itself, the NFL headquarters, Park Avenue, New York, where they administer the league, they make the deals with the TV networks, they make the deals with the players’ union over the collective bargaining agreement, they oversee the on-field rules, all of that, that’s a non-profit.

David: Roger Goodell makes how much?

Patrick: $29 and a half million a year.

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has earned $50 million from the NFL while no longer working for the organization.

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has earned $50 million from the NFL while no longer working for the organization.

David: And the commissioner before him was Paul Tagliabue.

Patrick: That’s right.

David: Is he still earning money from the NFL?

Patrick: Amazingly, he is. I went back and I went through their tax returns, and basically since Tagliabue stepped down and was succeeded by Roger Goodell and this was in 2006, and Paul made close to $50 million in the last half decade from the NFL and its related organizations, essentially for not working. He works now at Covington and Burling, it’s a big law firm in DC, which has worked with the NFL for a very long time. So, just as there’s that revolving door in Washington on K Street and Congress, there seems to be a little bit of a revolving door between K street and the NFL.

David: And our justice Department, Eric Holder, comes out of that law firm as well.

Patrick: That’s right. And the head of the NFL Union, Dee Smith, he comes from Patton Boggs, another K street firm. The NFL’s top lawyer right now, Jeff Pash, is a former Covington guy. And for purposes of what we’re talking about, the NFL’s tax chief council, I found out he also works at Covington. So, there’s quite a connection there. The NFL’s well connected in D.C.

David: And Covington I believe also represents Goldman Sachs and some of the big names.

Patrick: I think they do and if you go back further, they also represented a lot of the big tobacco back in the bad old days of big tobacco telling everybody that cigarettes weren’t bad for your health.

David: Eric Holder, our Attorney General, comes from that law firm.

Patrick: Correct.

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