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Patrick Hruby

The National Free Riding League

Pro football's latest - and shameless - taxpayer ripoff

So you have this friend. Fun guy, life of the party, knows a ton about fantasy football. Rich, too. Trust fund or something. He doesn’t like to talk about it.

Anyway, there’s a problem. Your friend never pays his share. For anything. Buy a round and he doesn’t return the favor. Order pizza and he’s totally out of cash. Go out for a group dinner? He habitually orders the best wine and the biggest steak — and habitually disappears before the check comes.

Your rich friend is the National Football League.

The NFL is a confederacy of wealthy moochers. Welfare Kings, really, a gang of grifters perpetually crying poor while suckling from the public teat. Build us a stadium or we’ll move to Los Angeles! Like Wall Street, the league is dedicated to a two-step business model that’s both foolproof and infuriating:

1. Socialize risk.

2. Privatize profit.

Of course, I’ve already discussed this, and at great length. Still, the point bears repeating. It bears repeating because the Miami Herald reported last week that among the standard demands from the league for communities hosting a Super Bowl is that the league employees be exempt from all local taxes.

Taxes, of course, are the price we collectively agree to pay for having a society with nice things — like roads and schools and police — as opposed to a society that looks like something out of “Doomsday Preppers.” Only don’t tell that to the NFL. Thanks an IRS loophole, sports team owners already are allowed to deduct player salaries two different ways, effectively creating a tax shelter. Stadium construction bonds are exempt from federal income tax, costing our cash-strapped government billions. The league that paid commissioner Roger Goodell a $29.5 million salary in 2011 qualifies as a tax-exempt non-profit, just like the United Way.

Now this. According to the Herald, the NFL’s Super Bowl bid package contains specific language specifying a broad range of taxes the league does not want its employees to have to pay: “income, gross receipt, franchise, payroll, sales, use, admission, or occupancy taxes as a result of holding the Game at the site.” Other than that, Ms. Lincoln, how was your 1040? The NFL also wants rebates on any taxes passed through to the league from local vendors, and for all of the requested exemptions to cover site visits for up to a year before the game.

Oh, and the NFL doesn’t want to pay parking costs for Super Bowl events, either. Talk about life imitating art.

Still, that’s not the most Scrooge McDuck-ian aspect of the NFL’s demands. No, the truly evil genius part is as follows: the taxes the league wants special legislative dispensation to evade reportedly would include a one percent hotel tax hike that the Miami Dolphins are asking Miami-Dade County to enact in order to pay for renovations to Sun Life Stadium — a new $3 million public subsidy for facility upgrades the team argues are necessary for the city to host the Super Bowl in 2016.

Pay us now, the NFL is effectively saying to South Florida, and then maybe we’ll let you pay us later. If you’re nice.

Look, I understand that professional football is a business, always and forever obsessed with the bottom line, driven to reduce costs and maximize revenue. That’s capitalism! Greed is good! The profit motive makes the market go ’round! I also understand that tax dodging is a proud, time-honored American tradition, from the Boston Tea Party to our most recent presidential election.

That said, there’s a line between acting out of enlightened self-interest and seeming, well, borderline sociopathic. Or just acting like the cheapskate guy who never, ever pays. An aluminum company moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana asks for a tax break on its new building; the NFL asks for tax breaks and for the public to construct its buildings. Most nonprofits exist to promote a social good; the NFL exists to promote a brain-mushing, body-destroying activity that increases our collective health care costs. If the league was in the business of farming corn, it would probably ask Congress for: a) increased ethanol subsidies; b) a federal law specifically exempting its employees from paying sales tax on Fritos purchases.

To be fair, the Herald states that “exempting league employees from Miami-Dade’s hotel tax would amount to a tiny amount of money the county collects from hotels during Super Bowl.” Then again, that’s pretty much the point. If it’s not a massive amount of money, why can’t the NFL just quietly pay its fair share? Why can’t the league — an organization that swaddles itself in the American flag, benefits from taxpayer-funded military flyovers and once all but made morning eggs for the Declaration of Independence before the Super Bowl — do the right thing, the communal thing, and chip in to the same public kitty they so often loot? Why can’t the guy who never pays his share of the restaurant bill at least cover the tip?

Oh, and speaking of said Declaration: the Founding Fathers were against taxation without representation. Not against paying taxes, period. They were patriots. Not moochers.

The good news? According to the Herald, an NFL spokesman said that Miami-Dade rejected the league’s request for extra tax breaks when the Super Bowl was played at Sun Life Stadium in 2012. The bad news? The Herald also reports that Miami’s rival for the 2016 Super Bowl, Santa Clara, recently announced it would waive hotel taxes for NFL executives — which in turn “raises the stakes as the Dolphins lobbying team races to obtain state and county approval of the tax-funded renovation” of Sun Life Stadium by late May, when the league will “pick a winner.”

A winner. That’s rich. Er, richer. Assuming you’re the NFL.

Read the original article at Sports on Earth