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 #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world, with over 150 camps in 30+ U.S. states and Canada. We discuss problems in youth sports today, including single sport specialization, the growing gap between the “haves” and “have-nots,” the high drop-out rate in competitive sports, and the growing mental health challenges young athletes are dealing with today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Episode #23 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Olympian Benita Fitzgerald Mosley Talks Title IX, Youth Sports and the Olympics.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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