Bread and Circus continues: Congress allows NFL to retain tax-exempt status

You probably didn’t know that the NFL is a tax-exempt organization. Well, it is. Which means that, in effect, it is sponsored by the federal government. It really makes no sense that the NFL should be tax-exempt. It is not a ministry or a charity or a small business needing a financial break. It is obviously a for-profit enterprise. In 2011, the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, made about 30 million clams. That’s insane.

According to the Bleacher Report, the NFL’s non-profit status

is why teams can find ways to secure public funds for the building of stadiums and receive property tax breaks on the land on which they are built. It’s why you won’t go one Sunday in September without seeing a few Play 60 commercials sponsored by the league.

The bottom line is that whether you watch the NFL or not (I am more of a college football man myself), you are paying for it with your taxes. Consider this situation, reported on by The Atlantic:

Taxpayers in Hamilton County, Ohio, which includes Cincinnati, were hit with a bill for $26 million in debt service for the stadiums where the NFL’s Bengals and Major League Baseball’s Reds play, plus another $7 million to cover the direct operating costs for the Bengals’ field. Pro-sports subsidies exceeded the $23.6 million that the county cut from health-and-human-services spending in the current two-year budget (and represent a sizable chunk of the $119 million cut from Hamilton County schools). Press materials distributed by the Bengals declare that the team gives back about $1 million annually to Ohio community groups. Sound generous? That’s about 4 percent of the public subsidy the Bengals receive annually from Ohio taxpayers.

When I first heard about this, I wondered why our civil government would be interested in supporting sports. Then it hit me: bread and circuses. Our modern version looks like food stamps and football, but the effect is the same. As long as you keep the people fed and entertained, you can do what you want with the reins of power. And that is exactly what’s going on.