Patriots

January 30, 2015; BuzzFeed

After watching Katy Perry ride an animatronic tiger puppet and then fly on a cable through the Super Bowl halftime show, few viewers could legitimately think that they were watching an extravaganza mounted by a tax-exempt “nonprofit,” but the National Football League really is one.

In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, two New York State legislators, State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, introduced legislation to change New York State’s tax law that would remove the league’s tax-exempt privileges under state law. Hoylman’s thought is that an entity that nets $10 billion in annual revenue doesn’t quite fit the meaning of “nonprofit.” It is particularly meaningful to the New York legislators, since the NFL is headquartered in the state and, if taxed as a for-profit business entity, could contribute to state tax coffers.

In Congress, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced a bill that would deny tax-exempt status to all professional sports leagues, including the National Hockey League and the Professional Golfers Association Tour in addition to the NFL. “To say establishments like the NFL are not-for-profit organizations is laughable,” Chaffetz explains. “They are a for-profit and should be taxed as such.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, earning a salary in 2012 of $3.5 million plus a $40 million bonus, sent Hoylman a letter explaining that though the league office is tax exempt, the 32 teams that generate the bulk of the revenue are taxable entities. The language in the Internal Revenue Code that defines 501(c)(6) busines