GOP Tax Proposal Would End Tax Break That Includes NFL Stadiums

The House GOP’s 400-plus pages of proposed changes to the tax code include a shift that would impact the NFL, which President Donald Trump has attacked throughout 2017 for players’ protests during the national anthem.

Inside Subtitle G-Bond Reforms is a passage stating, “No Tax Exempt Bonds for Professional Stadiums.” As Business Insider explains, “[L]ocal governments issue bonds to pay for the construction of sports facilities,” but the end of tax exempt bonds “would prevent people from deducting interest income [from] those bonds on their federal taxes.”

Though this section item would impact all professional stadiums (hockey, baseball, basketball and football), the controversy surrounding taxes, Trump and the NFL has brought football into the national focus.

Many NFL players have been kneeling—or "taking a knee"—during the performance of the national anthem at games. The gesture was popularized in 2016 when Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the anthem as a form of protest against police brutality.

This form of protest has spread to college and high school sports as well, as athletics and activism converge against police brutality and racism in the United States.

Trump has tweeted extensively about the NFL protests:

At the end of September, Trump even called for players who did not stand to be fired. After his comment, in the third week of the season, almost 200 athletes took a knee.

On Oct. 10, Donald Trump tweeted:

It is unclear whether Trump was referring to the cost of stadium construction or the NFL league office, which was tax exempt until 2015.

When the issue of Trump’s tweet was raised with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, she did not clarify what Trump was referencing.

"While the NFL may have given up its tax-exempt status a few years ago, it's been well documented that billions of dollars continue to subsidize the construction and renovation of professional sports stadiums... If this industry is going to use money from American taxpayers to build the very fields they play on, then is it really too much to ask that they show respect for the American flag at the beginning of the game?" Sanders said.

Trump may have been referring to the taxes of team owners. However, as Jared Dubin wrote at CBS Sports, Trump’s “tax plan contains several breaks that would be of extraordinary benefit to the owners… so that seems rather unlikely.”  

According to research and analysis published at Economic Studies at Brookings, between 2000-2014 there were 16 new or renovated stadiums built for the NFL, 13 of which were paid for with tax-exempt bonds.

Two days before the tax overhaul plan was released, Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, spoke on Fox & Friends about tax breaks and stadium construction.

"I don't think that the millionaires and billionaires associated with professional sports ought to get a special tax break that's not available to the regular small businesses and regular folks in my district and across America," Gaetz said.

Gaetz’s comments on Fox & Friends also addressed the controversy surrounding the NFL protests. "I think that these protests that the NFL has engaged in, that the league office has seemingly embraced has really drawn into sharp relief the treatment that they get," he said.

Trump wants the proposed bill to be law by Christmas.


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