NFL puts the profit in nonprofit

Aren’t 501c3s wonderful? Please keep reading; I promise this article is going to be more exciting than a discussion of taxes. Even if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are probably familiar with this kind of organization. They are either charities or private foundations considered nonprofit and therefore exempt from paying federal income taxes. A perfect example is the school associated with this newspaper, St. Olaf College. UNICEF is a good example as well. Then there’s everyone’s favorite charity and private foundation: the National Football League!

Wait, what?

That was not a mistake. The NFL, responsible for our Sunday night football fixes, does not have to pay any federal income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service. This is not due to a loophole in the law. Actually, it’s completely legal. 501c3s include any organization that “Fosters National or International Amateur Sports Competition.” But is that right?

As shocking as it is to hear that the NFL is the same as St. Olaf in the eyes of the IRS, it is even more surprising to find out how much money the NFL keeps because of its 501c3 status.

A Feb. 13 article in the Huffington Post by Maxwell Strachan says it all: “Roger Goodell Makes $35 Million Running The Nonprofit NFL.” That number refers to his profit intake in 2013, not his total sum made as NFL commissioner. It’s a ridiculously high sum, even when compared with other bosses and businesses. For example, Lloyd Blankfein made $23 million in the same year. Who is that, you ask? Oh, just the CEO of a small venture known as Goldman Sachs.

The commissioner of the NFL takes more money home than the CEO of Goldman Sachs. Does anybody else find this a little strange?

The designation of the NFL as an “Amateur Sports Competition” in 501c3 status made sense before the league began raking in $10 billion a year. As Head of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz R-Utah highlighted in Strachan’s article, “Was that a nonprofit event going on, or was that a for-profit venture? It’s a for-profit venture. You tell people that the NFL is a nonprofit entity and they just start laughing and giggling. But it’s not fair. If there’s another side to that, then let the commissioner come in and make that case,” Chaffetz said.

It’s true. A person would be hard-pressed to defend the NFL’s inclusion as a nonprofit and the millions of dollars it keeps based on a technicality. Does Roger Goodell really need the money he gets from this tax designation? Does the League? The money the NFL makes rather, doesn’t have to give away as a nonprofit could be used in many other arenas by the government, such as schools and infrastructure. The business that is the NFL and yes, the NFL is a business is cheating the system whether it means to do so or not.

However, this is not to demonize the NFL. While it would probably not give up its 501c3 status without a fight, it would have to if the government took action. It may not be an easily rectified situation, but it is one worth looking into. For now, feel free to pay into the institution of the National Football League and worship at the church of the Super Bowl. Please, educate yourself on how much the league is fleecing from the United States, and hopefully recognize that this is not right.

walker1@stolaf.edu

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