Two Cents Worth – Congress needs to take a hard look at the NFL

My view from Section 427, Row SS, Seats 1 and 2. That was my home at the Dome for a few seasons worth of Rams football.

My view from Section 427, Row SS, Seats 1 and 2. That was my home at the Dome for a few seasons worth of Rams football.

The Rams are heading back to Los Angeles and we’re stuck here dumbstruck by how badly the NFL dismissed and then denigrated St. Louis’s stadium proposal. Now, I know there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not Missouri lawmakers should use public dollars to help fund the proposed stadium. But that’s not the debate we should be having.  We should be talking about how 32 NFL team owners have managed to create a monopoly and have Congress endorse it.

The league has been granted, by Congress, an exemption from the anti-trust laws, allowing the league to speak on behalf of all of their teams when negotiating media deals. This allows the league owners to act as a monopoly and make billions of dollars each year through broadcasting contracts.

Public Law 89-800, passed in 1966, granted the league the ability to act as a monopoly when it came to television rights. Our lawmakers essentially gave the league a printing press and a license to print cash. There was only one restriction, the NFL couldn’t air games Friday nights or Saturdays in the fall when high school and college football was typically played.

That’s not all Public Law 89-800 did though. There was also a provision granting “professional football leagues” a non-profit status under Section 501(c)6 of 26 U.S.C., which is the Internal Revenue Code. The NFL operated until last year as a non-profit organization. The only reason they stopped last year was because of all of the heat they were receiving in the media about spousal and child abuse and they figured it would be good PR to give up their tax-exempt status.

I will note that the other three major leagues in the US (the MLB, NBA, and NHL) also receive an exemption from the anti-trust laws as it relates to broadcasting, but the NFL’s deal is vastly more valuable.

Why am I talking about all of this? Plain and simple, I’m angry at the NFL for moving the Rams back to Los Angeles after playing unfairly with the citizens of the St. Louis area and the taskforce assembled to try and keep the team here. Dave Peacock, the head of the taskforce, has stated publicly that the guidelines kept shifting and the goals the taskforce needed to meet kept changing. The NFL knew they were going to move the team, but they had to go through a dog and pony show before they could do so. It’s been said the Rams value doubled as soon as the vote was taken and they were officially heading back to LA. It all comes down to money.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that the goal of the NFL is to be a $25 billion entity. While I have no problem with corporations being successful, I do when they constantly exploit the taxpayers to do so.

So, I’m calling on Congress to take a good hard look at the NFL’s anti-trust exemption. I’m calling on Congress to analyze every way the NFL benefits at the expense of taxpayers. And I’m calling on Congress to begin the process of changing these exemptions so that they don’t lopsidedly benefit the NFL and screw over the taxpayers. The congressman for O’Fallon is Mike Bost and his number is (618) 233-8026. If you agree that maybe the NFL has lived high on the hog at our expense long enough, give him a ring.

It is important to note that the Green Bay Packers are a unique exception to much of this conversation.  That team is the only publicly owned, non-profit organization. As such, the Packers must publicly release their finances and make a great deal of charitable donations. The team is run by a board of directors, whose members are voted in by the shareholders of the team, many of which are members of the general public who bought stock to support their local team. The Packers corporation currently has 360,584 stockholders, who collectively own 5,011,557 shares of stock after the last stock sale of 2011–2012. Shareholders receive no dividends and the only member of the board of directors that receives compensation is the president of the board. The president acts as the team’s representative at NFL owners meetings and other functions.  As a result of this arrangement, the Packers will never relocate from Green Bay.