Brian Rafalski Doesn't Like Tennessee's Way of Doing Business

Kyle W. BrownContributor IIMarch 28, 2010

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 31:  Brian Rafalski #28 of the Detroit Red Wings  prepares for a face-off  against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Mellon Arena on January 31, 2010 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Penguins defeated the Red Wings 2-1.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

This is a bit of a weird story coming out, hiding in the back pages of sports sections.

It seems that Detroit Red Wings' and US Olympic team defenseman Brian Rafalski is tired of Tennessee taking his money for being a professional athlete.

The issue stems from a new law that was introduced last summer, which essentially states that any professional athlete who plays a game in the Volunteer State must pay $2500 per game, a maximum of three times a year. (Note that NFL players are exempt from this rule, as the league has a stipulation that would allow them to sue the state for charging its players.)

What this means is that any player for the Predators or the Grizzlies (as far as I have found, minor leaguers are exempt also) must pay $7500 for essentially playing on a team in that state. As is the case with Rafalski, it also means that anyone on an opposing team that must play against a Tennessee team also pays $7500 (the Red Wings and anyone else in the Central Division play three games in Nashville).

Essentially, it's a cash grab that no-one's really going to care about seeing as pro athletes make so much money. A new player in the NHL makes around $500,000, so it's hard to imagine the public sympathizing with them as their annual earnings go down to $492,500.

Rafalski doesn't care about how much he makes, he feels that it's unfair for the state to feel entitled to his money for playing in Tennessee.

"My complaint with it is 17 teammates will be paying money out of their own pocket to play in Tennessee. It's a tax rate over 100% percent," Rafalski said. "It's just not a fair tax."

Rafalski said that he is appalled by the idea of having a tax rate that high on anyone, and would like to see the law challenged legally. The NHLPA seems to be listening, as they announced on Friday that they are working with a tax expert to review any legal actions over what is being called the "jock tax."

All of the money raised from the tax goes back to the two host cities, Nashville and Memphis. For the players on the two teams in-state, it's not such a burden, as they have the ability to play in a tax-free state.

But Rafalski feels that the tax is unfair, and thinks that it hits younger players harder. While I'm sure few people are sympathizing with the athletes, it's a question of arbitrariness. Is it fair for the state to charge a Red Wing $7500 a year, where as someone in the east may only play there once in two years.

The other key argument is the amount of revenue that the cities earn from hosting the game themselves (though this may not be true with the attendance figures of Memphis), with the money being spent by the fans going to the games.

Either way, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, is done. Tennessee is not alone in this tax, as eighteen states impose it, but Tennessee is set apart because it does not allow for visiting players to file a deduction when doing taxes back home.

What do you think?


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