NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers

October 1, 2013

Taxpayers fund the stadiums, antitrust law doesn't apply to broadcast deals, the league enjoys nonprofit status, and Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year. It's time to stop the public giveaways to America's richest sports league -- and to the feudal lords who own its teams, says Gregg Easterbrook, a contributing editor at The Atlantic.

  • In Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell, who styles himself as a budget-slashing conservative crusader, took $4million from taxpayers' pockets and handed the money to the Washington Redskins for the team to upgrade a workout facility. The Redskins' owner, Dan Snyder, has a net worth estimated by Forbes at $1billion.
  • 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 $7million to cover the direct operating costs for the Bengals' field.
  • In Minnesota, the Vikings wanted a new stadium and were vaguely threatening to decamp to another state if they didn't get it. The Minnesota legislature, facing a $1.1billion budget deficit, extracted $506million from taxpayers as a gift to the team.
  • In California, the City of Santa Clara broke ground on a $1.3billion stadium for the 49ers. Officially, the deal includes $116million in public funding.

Until public attitudes change, those at the top of the pro football pyramid will keep getting away with whatever they can. This is troubling not just because ordinary people are taxed so a small number of NFL owners and officers can live as modern feudal lords and ladies. It is troubling because athletics are supposed to set an example -- and the example being set by the NFL is one of selfishness.

Football is the king of sports. Should the favorite sport of the greatest nation really be one whose economic structure is based on inequality and greed?

Source: Gregg Easterbrook, "How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers," The Atlantic, October 2013.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues