Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 9/25/13
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Politics makes strange bedfellows, but to really flip the political script, throw a football under the covers. Senator Tom Coburn's effort to remove the tax-exempt status of the NFL is such a nit of an issue that we wonder what he is really after. Coburn, a fiscal conservative from Oklahoma is oddly all in on raising taxes on the NFL. Specifically, Coburn wants to remove the tax-exempt status of the league office that is baked into the U.S. Tax Code. The NFL, along with the NHL, PGA, LPGA, US Tennis Association, National Hot Rod Association, Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and other professional sports groups are lumped as non-profits. These sports leagues are classified as trade associations. The Tax Code specifically classifies professional football leagues in the same tax-exempt category as business leagues and chambers of commerce. If Coburn's bill becomes law, it would remove that status and close a $10 million annual tax loophole now enjoyed by the NFL and the NHL. That's $10 million combined. Um, big whoop. That's not even a decent rounding error for the U.S. Deficit. What's Coburn's game? Perhaps he is sincere in his belief that the NFL should not qualify as a business league because it does not act in the interest of the entire football industry. The league acts in the interest of 32 member franchises as rules and schedule maker, and as negotiator for labor, broadcast and marketing agreements. The NFL does not work in the interest of big time college football. the NCAA BCS does that. Neither does it represent minor football leagues, who would love to be part of the NFL, nor of high school football, whose players aspire to be pros someday. NFL control of the BCS would probably be in improvement, but BCS college presidents will not cede the golden goose to the NFL. They have senators too, you know. College athletics is also tax-exempt. Sports Illustrated just completed a five-part expose of the rise of Oklahoma State football by nefarious means. Coburn is an alumnus of Oklahoma State. If you are going to have the best team money can buy, why not petition to join the NFL. Political mischief like this is why NFL owners hire DC lawyers like Roger Goodell and predecessor Paul Tagliabue as commissioner. Coburn's campaign is a quixotic crusade unlikely to pass. The NFL should offer Coburn an Oklahoma City Super bowl, or something, to make the issue go away.   
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