NPR took up the NFL as a topic, with author Gregg Easterbrook, a sports junkie and long-time writer for liberal magazines and sites like Slate. On Wednesdays’s All Things Considered, anchor Robert Siegel seemed to sneer at the sport: “Football: part sport, part national addiction, part cult.”
Siegel told Easterbrook “Yours is one of the most conflicted books I've ever read. You love the game. And you document the umpteen ways in which it has forfeited any claim to your love. Why not say ‘Enough, goodbye, football’?” Easterbrook said “I love football and I want it reformed.” Both liberals and conservatives might be shocked that the massively profitable NFL is chartered as a nonprofit:
SIEGEL: OK, you write about football at all levels. Let's start at the top, at the professional level. The National Football League, big surprise to me, is a hugely profitable nonprofit. How is that?
EASTERBROOK: Well, it's a scandal that I can't understand why people aren't marching in the streets over, I suppose. The headquarters of the National Football League is chartered as a nonprofit and treated by the IRS as a nonprofit due to a few keywords that were slipped into a piece of legislation 50 years ago. The individual teams probably pay corporate income taxes but we don't know since most of them don't disclose any figures. Most of them receive public subsidies but don't disclose anything.
The top of the NFL, Roger Goodell, the commissioner, his $30 million-a-year paycheck comes from what looks on paper to be a tax-exempt philanthropy. (Laughter)
SIEGEL: It's a consortium of teams, pro football teams, most of which live off of public subsidies.
EASTERBROOK: Yes. Judith Grant Long, a researcher at Harvard, calculates that 70 percent of the cost of NFL stadia has been paid for by taxpayers. In general, the public subsidizes pro football to the tune of around $1 billion a year is what I calculate in my book. And yet, it's phenomenally profitable, subsidized up one side, down the other, and yet a very profitable business.
PS: The liberal journalist’s tendency to avoid the word “liberal” is on display here. The weasel word for it was “highbrow.” Siegel introduced Easterbrook: “He writes about football for ESPN.com. And over the years he's written about energy, the environment and other public policy issues for The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly and several other highbrow monthlies and weeklies.”