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 #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
Episode #8 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Save College Sports From Overcommercialization and Professionalization? – The guest is Dr. David Ridpath, a sports business professor and past president of the Drake Group
Episode #7 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Brain Trauma and CTE Risk in Sports With Dr. Ann McKee – Dr. McKee works in the field of neuropathology and has demonstrated that “mild” repetitive head trauma can provoke chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a devastating neurodegenerative disease.
Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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.
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