There’s a reason why football is called America’s pastime. Americans —if they watch the sport or not— are unconsciously paying for it. Controversy brought on by NFL star Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem last season, and subsequently looking for employment this season, has put the organization founded in 1920 under a microscope.
Heightening the issue, in a recent speech President Trump called those that are kneeling “son of bitches.” Immediately, Kaepernick’s protest about police brutality and systematic racism became about standing up against Trump —and while that was never the intent of the political gesture, if we are going to analyze the role of government in the NFL, we should break in down clearly.
Here are six ways the NFL and government are directly linked.
It’s been widely reported that seven NFL team owners donated to Donald Trump’s inaugural committee. And it wasn’t just small change— Dan Snyder of the Redskins, Shad Khan of the Jaguars, Bob McNair of the Texans, Robert Kraft of the Patriots, Woody Johnson of the Jets and Stan Kroenke of the Rams donated $1 million each. Also, the NFL’s marketing division gave $100k to Trump.
The National Anthem.
In 2009 the government began having football players come out and stand for the National Anthem— as a way to market military recruitment. Previously, players were in the locker room during the National Anthem. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake delved into this issue in a 2015 report that revealed the Department of Defense spent $6.8 million in advertising contracts with different sports teams since 2012 —with the majority going to the NFL.
The Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 is considered the first piece of legislation to allow financial carte blanche by the NFL. The amendment essentially allowed professional football teams to pool together when negotiating radio and television broadcasts rights —with CBS being the lead station. Signed by President John F. Kennedy, this law was the first action by the federal government that would spur the growth of a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
Believe it or not, the NFL is non-profit. The IRS expanded Section 501(c)6 of the Internal Revenue Code, which “provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues, which are not organization.” As noted by The Washington Post, this exception means the NFL’s headquarters in New York led by Goodell is spared tax payments that some estimate to be $10 million annually— because the teams and not the NFL make money.
Football is a recreational sport, and recreational sports are a tourist attraction. With that said, it should be noted that several football stadiums have been built with some or all-public financing, according to David Goodfriend. That public financing comes from taxpayers dollars that rack up to hundreds of millions of dollars for the building and maintence of these venues all over the country.
You know those gorgeous suites for corporate employees and sponsor brands? As reported by CNN Money, NFL teams sell between $1.5 billion to $2 billion worth of luxury and high-end club seats a year, according to Bill Dorsey, the chairman of the Association of Luxury Suite Directors. A single suite can cost as much as $750,000 a season. Almost all suites and club tickets are bought by corporate clients, which write the cost off as a business entertainment expense.