NFL As Charitable Non-Profit?

Sports, as professional athletes routinely remind us when they are traded from one franchise to another, are a business. Yet several major sports leagues, like the NHL (National Hockey League) and NFL (National Football League), have for years been operating as non-profit charitable organizations.

“Basically we’re subsidizing with tax breaks the NFL’s ability to leverage big stadium deals that we often wind up subsidizing directly with local taxes,” Deadspin reports. “We’re also subsidizing with tax breaks the salaries of such notable nonprofiteers as NHL commissioner Gary Bettman ($4.3 million), PGA commissioner Tim Finchem ($5.2 million) and the NFL’s top eight executives ($51.5 million).”

But a new bill proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla) proposes to change these non-profit designations, and have the leagues pay their fair share.

Sen. Coburn “introduced an amendment to a bill called the Marketplace Fairness Act,” continues Deadspin, “that would revoke the tax-exempt status of sports leagues.”

In his “Wastebook 2012,” released last October, Sen. Coburn highlights “egregious ways” up to $18 billion in potential “taxpayer dollars were wasted in 2012,” his website reads.

First on his list: professional sports leagues like the NFL, NHL, and PGA (Professional Golfers Association), which he says cost taxpayers $91 million in unrealized revenue.

“There is no question we can find hundreds of billion dollars of waste in our budget,” says Sen. Coburn. “Until Congress has the guts to cut specific programs we will never get our debt under control.”

As a comparison to the embellished salaries received by executives at many professional sports league non-profits, this month’s Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report has published the American Institute of Philanthropy’s list of top 25 “compensations” earned at charitable non-profits. Top salaries include Edward J. Benz, M.D., CEO/President of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Jimmy Fund), at $1,245,790; Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association (NRA), at $972,000; and Steven E. Sanderson, CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society, at $870,642.

(Originally appeared at Free Sport.)

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