Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Kavitha A. Davidson

NFL Gives Up Tax Break to Keep Its Secrets

Angry fans will no longer know Commissioner Goodell's salary.
Who here is overpaid?

Who here is overpaid?

Photographer: Elsa/Getty Images

The National Football League made one heck of a news dump -- I mean, "announcement" -- on a busy Tuesday, revealing that it plans to relinquish the league office's tax-exempt status. The obvious follow-up question: What's in it for Commissioner Roger Goodell?

The NFL has been under political and public pressure over its status as a 501(c)6 nonprofit, which exempts business leagues "not organized for profit" from taxation. In 1966, the phrase "professional football leagues" was specifically added to the tax code as part of the effort to merge the AFL and the NFL. Gregg Easterbrook adeptly summed up the league's sweetheart deal in a 2013 piece for the Atlantic, noting that adding football was a last-minute concession won by the league's lobbyists in a broader law that also won the NFL an antitrust exemption for television broadcast deals -- a luxury it still enjoys.