By Ken Reed
Pro sports franchise owners and big-time college sports administrators have long been masters at getting taxpayers to pay for a big chunk of their expenses. The most obvious example is publicly-funded stadiums and arenas for wealthy NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL franchise owners. These owners have regularly teamed with local politicians to create schemes in which local taxpayers end up paying for sports palaces so rich owners can get richer. These sports barons enjoy many other financial benefits because of favorable tax treatment and the fact that our major pro sports leagues are in effect allowed to operate as unchecked monopolies.
In a new column on salon.com, columnist David Sirota uses the term Sports Tax as a catch-all label for key levies the “little guy” is being forced to pay. Sirota identifies four aspects of the Sports Tax.
The first one is direct handouts. Sirota cites a Bloomberg Businessweek report that reveals “taxpayers have committed $18.6 billion since 1992 to subsidies for the NFL’s 32 teams, counting the expense of building stadiums, forgone real estate taxes, land and infrastructure improvements, and interest costs on public bonds.” Add in NBA, MLB and NHL handouts and that figure soars even higher.
“The second Sports Tax comes in the form of a rigged tax code, which effectively compels honest taxpayers to bankroll professional teams,” writes Sirota. He cites research that taxpayers subsidize at least $91 million worth of tax loopholes for pro sports leagues.
The third Sports Tax involves our cable and satellite TV bills. Sirota refers to a Los Angeles Times story that says up to half of cable bill payments are for the sports services incorporated into most basic cable packages. Ratepayers aren’t allowed to opt out. As such, non-sports fans are forced to subsidize the sports fans who watch cable TV sports.
The fourth piece of this Sports Tax involves big-time college sports. We end up paying more taxes for higher education and higher tuition bills to help fund the athletic departments at major universities. These athletic departments have the advantage of operating under the non-profit umbrella of their universities. Yet, due to the incredible arms race we’re experiencing in college sports — e.g., football coaches are now making upwards of $5 million a year, and plush athletic dorms and workout facilities are popping up across our college campuses — 93% of athletic departments are losing money today. All of us, in one way or the other, are making up the difference.
As Sirota concludes, even most sports fans can agree that the Sports Tax has gotten out of hand, especially in this era of reduced household incomes, and declining budgets for things like schools, police and fire protection.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
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Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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