Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

 In the wake of players’ refusal to stand for our national anthem it appears that two Congressional bills are picking up steam. The NFL backlash is just beginning. Fan ticket sales dropped by 20% last week. TV ratings are down by 18%. Now Congress is getting into the act having introduced a bill, Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act of 2017 (S. 1342), to hit the NFL where it hurts – in its pocketbook. Its purpose would be to treat any bonds as taxable regardless of who is providing the bonds.

Senator James Lankford, R-Okla., and Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., have introduced a bipartisan bill that would prevent professional sports teams from using municipal bonds that are exempt from federal taxes. Representative Steve Russell, R-Okla., and Representative Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., have introduced companion legislation in the House.

For years sports teams have used specially created tax breaks that allow the public to finance their very expensive arenas and stadia. The mechanism used is tax-exempt municipal bonds. These bonds were originally designed and reserved for public projects such as bridges, water systems and other municipal infrastructure projects. Ah ha…there is a loophole in the tax code that has allowed private stadia and arenas to take advantage of this tax break…and boy, have they ever. Very few major sports teams have used private money to construct their facilities.

Since 1997 twenty new NFL stadia have opened at a price tag of $4.7 billion dollars in taxpayer funds. Currently two new stadia are under construction in Atlanta and Minneapolis at a startling cost of $700 million dollars in taxpayer funds. You, the taxpayer paid for most of the University of Phoenix Stadium, home to the Arizona Cardinals, at a cost of approximately $300 million dollars.

Over the past 17 years, 36 professional sports stadia have been built or renovated by federal tax- exempt municipal bonds. The Brookings Institute reported that this has cost taxpayers $3.2 billion dollars.

It is estimated that the NFL, the most profitable sports league ever, generated $14 billion dollars in revenue last year (2016) with an estimated $1 billion dollars in profit. Everything about the NFL is pricey. It can easily cost a family of 4 at least $400 to attend just one game. The NFL teams sell $1.5 billion to $2 billion dollars worth of luxury and high-end club seats a year. Add in the fact that sponsors spend about $190 million dollars a year to the NFL for the right to cover a stadium with their company’s logo and other advertising signage. The NFL also receives much of its operational costs free of charge as a condition for the awarding of the Super Bowl to a community. Everything from player towels, to transportation to meals is free, comp-ed or discounted.

As Senator Booker said, “Professional sports teams generate billions of dollars in revenue. There’s no reason why we should give these multimillion-dollar businesses a federal tax break to build new stadiums. It’s not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits.”

You reap what you sow and the NFL is learning that has reaped the enmity of its fan base by becoming political. All that fans wanted was a break from all of the national bickering and strife for a few hours. They wanted to be lost in the fantasy of the game – not reminded that we are a country divided.

© Joyce Clark, 2017   


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