Did you know the NFL is a nonprofit organization? So the same league that can afford to pay commissioner Roger Goodell a ridiculous $44 million per year doesn’t pay one cent of federal tax. But that nauseating fact, my friends, is not what this post is about – because it gets much, much worse.
Where the NLF really sticks it to the taxpayer is in stadium costs. As I learned on NPR this morning (I’m a junkie), you and I shoulder the majority of funding for these behemoth structures.
So while the $10-billion-a-year NFL machine profits like a bandit from games played in local stadiums, they only pay a portion – or sometimes none – of those venues’ construction. These sites can cost upwards of a billion dollars to build, which cash-strapped local governments can hardly afford. And while most NFL team owners are billionaires themselves, they pass on the costs claiming that the city’s revenue will increase, making it a win for all of us.
But not so, according to Gregg Easterbrook, sports commentator and author of The King of Sports: Football’s Impact on America. He says that in fact, the economic lift almost rarely meets the amount of money poured in by taxpayers.
So why doesn’t the NFL pay for its own damned stadiums? Because of a tradition begging to be broken. Fifty years ago, sports team owners were not mega-loaded like they are today, and they needed public support to bring football to the community. Those days are long gone, but the NFL still convinces government officials to foot the bills.
My own hometown of Los Angeles may soon build a new stadium – and Easterbrook hopes the city will reject any proposal that involves taxpayer funding. So do I.
He also offers a solution so simple, Congress will never pass it: change the law to bar copyrighting of games played on publicly-funded sites. “The NFL will immediately negotiate to pay the full and proper cost of all its stadiums,” he says. The NFL makes most of its money via licensing broadcast rights, so the “problem will solve itself.”