Petition to Strip NFL of Nonprofit Status

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September 30, 2013; International Business Times


As of Tuesday morning, nearly 201,560 people have already signed a petition demanding that Congress revoke the tax-exempt status of the National Football League. The petition says the NFL is the “most profitable sports league in the world” and points to top officers who earn tens of millions of dollars a year.

This is not the first time critics have said that the NFL is hiding under a nonprofit status in order to avoid paying federal taxes. They have long complained about the salary of Commissioner Roger Goodell, who earned $29.5 million in 2011.

The National Football League is classified as a “business league,” which is why it merits 501(c)(6) status. Although the 32 individual teams are for-profit ventures (and are very profitable), the league itself, as a trade association, pays no corporate taxes, because it doesn’t technically make a profit. The NFL is required by law to direct its revenue (reportedly more than $255 million in 2011) back into its operations—but there is nothing to prevent it, or any similar organization, from paying exorbitant executive salaries, splurging on lavish office space, or conducting big marketing campaigns.

In September, just in time for the season kickoff, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced a bill to deny tax-exempt status to sports leagues that make more than $10 million a year. In addition to the NFL, this proposal would also apply to the National Hockey League and the PGA Tour. The Times says that Coburn calls these leagues “unmistakably organized for profit and to promote their brands.” The NFL’s tax-exempt status is not an industry standard. Major League Baseball gave up its nonprofit status in 2007, and the National Basketball Association has never been one.

The NFL petition, written by Lynda Woolard of New Orleans, was launched on It says that “the NFL has methodically worked to shift all the power to their side, leaving players, employees and PARTICULARLY THE FANS little say in what goes on with the league.” Created in 2007, is one of the fastest growing social action sites on the web.

With hundreds of new petitions received daily, a great number of petitions have a small impact, if any. However, in some cases, has hosted petitions of some significance. For example, its most famous petition came in March of 2012, when 2.2 million people signed a petition calling for the prosecution of George Zimmerman in the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin in February. In April, Zimmerman was finally arrested and charged. Other influential petitions have included petitions to get Bank of America to drop its planned $5/month fee for debit card users and to ask Sallie Mae to change its forbearance fee policy. The NFL could be surprised by the power of a petition that gathers hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Like-minded businesses have been forming mutual benefit societies and trade associations like the NFL for years, and many toil on anonymously in support of their memberships. But where do you draw the line between legitimate nonprofit activity that promotes the public’s welfare and blatant self-promotion with the sole objective of making more money for a very small group of individuals?—Larry Kaplan

  • Tony Renner

    I had no idea the NFL was supposed to be a non-profit. This is outrageous.

  • Sarah Robinson

    Why would this even be considered a non-profit entity?!?

  • DEB

    It is outrageous to think that this is a non profit and these people get paid so much money from the players to executives. 29.5 Million a year for a salary? If my small non profit that services people with disabilities could get just that .5 of his million (his pocket change really) in just one year alone, we could survive quite nicely from the interest earned and the amount of good we could do would be incredible! Hey NFL highly paid employees and team members would you like to donate your pocket change to us?

  • michael

    I understand the outrage but this petition, for all its symbolism, is looking at the wrong part of the problem.

    As the article points out the NFL is a trade association. Made up of 32 separate for profit companies. Thus when the league negotiates a $32 billion TV contract, the league office does not get taxed. Instead, it passes thru with $1 billion going to each of the teams and that’s where it is taxed.

    If you want to fight the real cronyism stench and stop the abuse of the public purse, then the place to focus your anger is on the stadium deals most professional franchises have with their host cities. Most of these are built on the public dime with the team owners able to skim off the most profitable pieces of the revenue stream (parking, concessions, luxury box).

  • Gordon huser

    I want to stop paying for the NFL’s non-profit status!

  • Samra Bufkins

    This is appalling. The NFL is no more a non-profit organization than Microsoft or WalMart or ExxonMobil. They should pay taxes like any business.

  • Tyler Riggs

    that is outrageous that the nfl could every consider itself a nonprofit and sully the names of real, actual nonprofits. i could never imagine myself volunteering for the nfl so at its most basic level it’s definitely not a nonprofit.

  • Trudy Miller

    This is beyond the pale and by any measure should be repealed!

  • Tina Murphy

    This is so necessary and way over due. What BS!!

  • Nancy Ferzola

    When I read that the NFL has a non profit status, I was appalled. The owners are making billions of tax free dollars, is it any wonder the players demand so much of this. During 2012 presidential campaign we heard very often how 46 percent of people in US do not pay taxes. These people barely can scrap out a life but the rich can complain about them. When will the rich pay their fair share as they used to before Ronald Reagan became president? Giving breaks to NFL makes me sick.

  • CJ Humphrey

    The republicans stripped the Sierra Club because it was ‘too politically active’! Which basically destroyed the wildlife/nature protectors. How can anyone think that a ‘professional multi million dollar corporation’ can be non profit? Especially in a climate where all non profits are being scrutinized – money talks.

  • sam davis

    The NFL should pay taxes…or give up all:
    -public funding for stadiums
    -TV blackouts

  • monet457

    The nfl is a sham

  • Rhonda

    Where do you draw the line Larry?

    When someone “running a (so-called) non-profit” takes home $29.5 million (salary) in one year.

    That’s where.

  • Rudy Sanchez

    How did this ever happen? The NFL has been making millions and millions of dollars EVERY year, there is NO NON-PROFIT about anything connected to the NFL.

  • Julie Steinhaus

    The petition above is a petition, please do sign it if so inclined, AND sign the one at to get the direct attention of the president. Here is the link –

  • l bys