The National Football League has come out against the tax reform bill that passed the House Thursday because the package would wipe out a tax break that allows sports teams access to tax-free bonds communities use to build stadiums.
President Donald Trump earlier this fall called for an end to the tax break in his battle with the NFL over national anthem protests by NFL players.
“Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” Trump tweeted last month.
Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017
The NFL said the stadiums are an investment in the economy of the communities in which they are located.
“You can look around the country and see the economic development that’s generated from some of these stadiums,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said.
“These sorts of infrastructure projects have a long history and the benefits of them are obvious in many of our communities around the country, so we will continue to make our opposition known on that,” he added.
Other sports teams have not taken a position on the tax reform bill.
Tax-free municipal bonds are usually used for major public works and infrastructure projects.
Wiping out the use of them to build sports stadiums is estimated to save $200 million over the next 10 years.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said that the federal government needs to prioritize the use of tax breaks, not subsidize NFL teams.
“Although stadium construction for multimillion-dollar sports franchises may have some local economic benefit, that is not the responsibility of the federal government,” Lankford said in a statement.
“The federal debt is now at a ridiculous $20 trillion,” he explained. “Using billions of federal taxpayer dollars for the subsidization of private stadiums, when we have real infrastructure needs in our country, is not a good way to prioritize our limited amount of money.”
A Brookings Institution study has said since 2000, about $13 billion in tax-free bonds has been used for stadium construction. Over that time, $3.7 billion in taxes was lost, while owners reaped a benefit of $3.2 billion.
On average, taxpayers have kicked in an average of $262 million for each NFL stadium built between 1990 to 2010, according to a study by Judith Grant Long, a University of Michigan professor of urban planning.
“Unfortunately, beneath all of the glitz and glamour, these venues are nothing more than monuments to corporate welfare and taxpayer handouts,” said David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, when the issue of tax breaks for stadiums was being debated in 2015.
“These stadiums have been built on the backs of taxpayers who had no or little say in the matter and in many cases have benefitted little or not at all,” he added.