After the recent NFL protests of the National Anthem, legislation that would eliminate federal funding to sports arenas is gaining massive support.
The “Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act of 2017” (S. 1342) was proposed by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) in June and it “amends the Internal Revenue Code, with respect to the tax exemption requirements for state and local bonds, to specify that bonds issued to finance professional sports stadiums meet the private security or payment test. (A state or local bond that satisfies both the private business use test and the private security or payment test is considered a private activity bond that is taxable unless it is used for certain qualified private activities.)”
Both senators believe that sports teams generate enough revenue on their own and don’t need government funding.
“The federal government is responsible for a lot of important functions, but financing sports stadiums for multi-million—sometimes billion—dollar franchises is definitely not one of them,” said Lankford.
Booker expressed similar sentiments to his co-sponsor on the bill.
“Professional sports teams generate billions of dollars in revenue,” said Booker. “There’s no reason why we should give these multimillion-dollar businesses a federal tax break to build new stadiums. It’s not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits.”
Although sports teams are extremely successful businesses, many have taken advantage of federal funding.
36 professional sports stadiums have been financed by federal tax-exempted municipal bonds. According to a study by the Brookings Institute, $3.2 billion from taxpayers went to the construction of these stadiums.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Braves new ballpark will cost over $400 million and the Falcons stadium ultimately will cost over $700 million– all of which is coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.
Many are asking the question: why should multi-billion-dollar business make taxpayers pay for these expensive stadium projects?
“The sports fan in me is intrigued by new stadiums. But both taxpayer and economist in me are simply disgusted. After all, there’s no reason that taxpayers should have to foot any part of the bill for a professional sports facility. Sports teams are no different than any other private businesses, and accordingly, teams should pay for their own facilities just like other private businesses,” writes Ray Keating for Real Clear Markets.
Basically, team owners are benefiting at the expense of taxpayers.
“Polls suggest 70 percent of Americans are against stadium subsidies, so it seems strange that the special interests who advocate for them would have a winning record. This is a classic case of “concentrated benefits and dispersed costs,” meaning the costs of any stadium subsidy are spread out over a large number of people, while the benefits go toward a select few,” writes The Post and Courier.
This information is enough to make taxpayers angry, but once sports players started to protest the national anthem, this added another layer.
President Donald Trump was one of the many to condemn the NFL players who disrespectfully didn’t stand during the national anthem and instead, made a statement by kneeling this weekend.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect…” tweeted Trump. “…our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
The backlash from the recent NFL players’ and their refusal to stand for the anthem has only triggered even more support for the bill proposed by Lankford and Booker.
Author’s note: It looks like sport team owners have a lot to lose if this bill continues to gain support. Not to mention, the NFL as a whole is losing support and ratings from fans in response to the players and their recent protests.
Editor’s note: The specter of these kinds of changes could spur the NFL to actually fix their problems rather than hiding from them.