Multiple Senators Attempting to End NFL's Not-for-Profit Status

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2014

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talks during a news conference announcing the launch of NFL Now, a multimedia effort to engage fans with the league, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, in New York, N.J. The Seattle Seahawks are scheduled to play the Denver Broncos in the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game on Sunday, Feb. 2, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo)
Uncredited/Associated Press

Two United States senators are looking to try to end what is the NFL's not-for-profit tax status.

Senators Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, and Angus King, an Independent from Maine, are at the forefront of the movement.

"This is a directed tax cut that [went] to the league office, which means every other American pays a little bit more every year because we give the NFL league office a tax break and call them a non-profit," Coburn told CNN's New Day (via David Sherfinski of The Washington Times). "In fact, they’re not."

King added:

The teams are separate entities—they pay taxes and they have their whole situation. The league has a foundation, charitable—wouldn’t affect that. This is talking about the [approximately $180 million] a year that goes into the league office.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello pointed out how the NFL earns its not-for-profit status:

In many fans' eyes, it's harder and harder for the league to justify said status when league owners are forcing cities untold millions to repair old stadiums or build new ones. It's either that, or the team picks up and moves out of town.

In addition, Commissioner Roger Goodell earned nearly $30 million in 2011 alone, per Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal:

Gregg Easterbrook of The Atlantic noted that the league's not-for-profit status goes back to the merger between the NFL and AFL:

This situation came into being in the 1960s, when Congress granted antitrust waivers to what were then the National Football League and the American Football League, allowing them to merge, conduct a common draft, and jointly auction television rights. The merger was good for the sport, stabilizing pro football while ensuring quality of competition. But Congress gave away the store to the NFL while getting almost nothing for the public in return.

Easterbrook described how a certain section of the Internal Revenue Code gave not-for-profit status to "business leagues, chambers of commerce, real-estate boards, or boards of trade." However, in 1966, the section was amended to say "business leagues, chambers of commerce, real-estate boards, boards of trade, or professional football leagues."

With more and more money getting funneled to the NFL, it's likely that the push to end its not-for-profit status will only grow.

According to Forbes' Monte Burke, Goodell is pushing for the league to earn $25 billion in revenue by 2027. That would be a massive increase from the $9 billion in revenue the NFL is currently earning.    

Burke outlined how a new television deal, labor happiness and a prospective new NFL mobile network would help Goodell to reach that figure. He would also count on having the not-for-profit status the league enjoys.

However, it may be a luxury the league won't have for much longer.