The Last Days of the Superbowl as a Tax-Exempt Fundraiser


The fact that the NFL is still considered a nonprofit tax-exempt entity is really an embarrassment to Congress and a slap in the face to the genuine charities who are working hard to change the world for the better, including the many sporting organizations that actually serve a higher purpose than primetime ratings. Legislation was introduced in both the Senate (Senator Tom Coburn-R, Oklahoma) and the House (Representative Chaffetz-R, Utah) in the past few months to finally close the loophole that allows the National Football League, the Professional Golf Association, and the National Hockey League, among others, to slip under the tax radar while organizations like the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball pay.

Cleverly named the Properly Reducing Overexemptions (PRO) Sports Act, the legislation would amend Federal tax code to prohibit professional sports organizations who garner more than $10M in annual revenue to qualify for the 501(c)(6) tax exempt status as industry trade associations and public interest groups.

While some may argue that professional sports enrich our lives and provide a culmination that encourages involvement in lower level sporting leagues and organizations, I'm not sure anyone could suggest that the NFL operates with a mission-first approach. Even their mission statement reeks of a profit-first model:

To present the National Football League and its teams at a level that attracts the broadest audience and makes NFL football the best sports entertainment in the world."

This is not to suggest that the NFL is "bad"; for-profits play an enormous and important role in the economy and in our lives. Americans (including myself) love football. In fact, the Superbowl is the one thing most of us can agree on. Whether it's the wings, commercials, or the intense action of professionally-tuned athletes at their peak, 81% of us said we plan to tune in today.

Major League Baseball apparently renounced their tax exempt status voluntarily in 2007. If you quack like a duck, be loud and proud about being a duck. The Superbowl is not a fundraiser for charity.

Author's Note: This particular piece reflects my personal opinion on this topic and other thoughtful opinions are welcomed.