What?! I had no idea that the NFL enjoys a tax-exempt status.Why the NFL probably won't lose its tax-exempt status http://t.co/wRVV5K6oPe
— Valerie Plame Wilson (@ValeriePlame) September 24, 2014
David Roth, SB Nation, “Meet the woman who wants to make the NFL pay its taxes“:
It happens every year, briefly and usually around Super Bowl time. That’s when the matter of the NFL’s tax-exempt status percolates to the surface, generally as a result of all the outrageous things that the NFL demands from whatever city is lucky enough to host the Super Bowl that year, and which kind of idly enrage those so-inclined. Most states exempt 501(c)6 non-profit organizations — trade groups, ordinarily, like the Chamber of Commerce or National Beef Council — from state income and sales tax, and the NFL is classified as such. The NFL also pays no federal corporate taxes.
This tends to offend, especially given the NFL’s notable dedication to profit and power above just about everything else; it also violates the spirit of the law, as Slate‘s Jordan Weissmann points out, because the NFL is more like a closed cartel than an industry organization. And offend it does, generally for that one week in January. And then things roll on for another 50 or so weeks, more or less as it has since Congress first granted the NFL 501(c)6 status back in 1966…
But a New Orleans-based activist Lynda Woolard hit upon an idea that might force a little bit of accountability upon an organization that’s otherwise proven itself resistant to it. Several years ago, she started a Change.org petition aimed at revoking the NFL’s tax-exempt status. Since then, first slowly and then all at once, the movement has picked up momentum — the campaign now has the endorsement of a wide array of prominent national political figures, and the petition has more than 363,000 signatures. In the last week, two Senators — Maria Cantwell of Washington and Cory Booker of New Jersey — have introduced bills aimed at ending the NFL’s nonprofit status. The unlikely coalition supporting this cause includes an independent Senator from Maine, an arch-conservative Senator from Oklahoma, and a libertarian-leaning congressman from Utah.
Woolard, an artist and a Crescent City resident for over twenty years — and a die-hard Saints fan — was politically galvanized after Hurricane Katrina, and has dedicated herself to organizing in the years since. It’s not her only job, but it’s one she’s embraced with rare passion…
What was your inspiration for starting this petition — that is, what was the moment when you decided that the NFL’s tax-exemption was unjust enough that you wanted to organize and try to do something about it?
The Super Bowl riders were something I learned about after I started the petition… and I have learned much more about the intricacies of the NFL’s finances in the course of talking to like-minded sports writers and sports fans over the last few of years. Besides the fact that this multi-billion dollar industry being governed by a non-profit seems, on the face of it, unfair to everyone else who works hard and pays taxes, I really started the petition as a tool to gain some financial leverage over the NFL, and as a mechanism to call in the only body who seemed to have any authority over them: Congress.
I felt like every season started with some issue that fans felt uncomfortable with, but that we had no power to do anything about, whether it be the player lockout, the replacement refs, the growing body of evidence that the NFL hid reports linking concussions to later life disabilities, and so on. We just see that list of concerns getting longer today…
Useful Tim Lavin piece on why the NFL benefits from nonprofit status even though it doesn't have profits. http://t.co/lTMn79Bj79
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) September 25, 2014