NFL Defends Its Nonprofit Status

Yes, the NFL is a nonprofit—kinda
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2013 3:42 PM CDT
NFL Defends Its Nonprofit Status
FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2011, file photo, an NFL logo is displayed on the Ford Field turf before an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Carolina Panthers in Detroit. Google has been holding talks with the National Football League, raising speculation that the internet monolith is seeking...   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Sen. Tom Coburn has introduced a new bill that would see the NFL's nonprofit status revoked. Wait, the NFL is a nonproft? Well, kind of, explains NBC News. Its $9 billion in annual revenue, from things like ticket sales, merchandise, and TV contracts—that's all subject to taxation. But the league's head office is a 501(c) 6 trade association. And that operation isn't pocket change: it receives $250 million every year in team membership dues. Some of that goes to grants to community groups—$2.3 million last year—but it also goes to pay for things like commissioner Roger Goodell's $29.4 million salary, or the $35.9 million spent on new offices for NFL bosses.

A online petition calling for the tax-exemption status to be removed has received over 286,000 signatures. But an NFL attorney says critics are just misguided. "People hear that the NFL is tax exempt,” he says, “and they think: ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I just paid $200 for a ticket. The television networks are paying a billion dollars a year. Are you telling me they’re escaping tax on all that?’ And the answer is: No, they’re not escaping tax on any of that. The teams are paying tax on all of that money." But one tax attorney tells NBC that doesn't mean the NFL is meeting the requirements of a 501(c) 6, which is supposed to be primarily "promoting an entire industry or profession or sport," he says. (More NFL stories.)

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