Times-Unioin readers want to know:
Did President Donald Trump take away the National Football League’s nontaxable status?
No, Trump did not strip the NFL of its nonprofit designation. The league office actually gave up its nonprofit status in 2015, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service.
“As you know, the effects of the tax-exempt status of the league office have been mischaracterized repeatedly in recent years,” said Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, in a memo announcing the change to team owners. “The fact is that the business of the NFL has never been tax exempt. Every dollar of income generated through television rights fees, licensing agreements, sponsorships, ticket sales, and other means is earned by the 32 clubs and is taxable there.”
Rumors about the NFL have increased online since Sept. 23, when Trump called on team owners to fire any player who “disrespects our flag” by protesting racial injustice on the field during the national anthem. That weekend, more than 200 players demonstrated by kneeling, sitting or raising a fist during the National Anthem, according to media reports.
Supposedly, the rumors go, Trump countered by taking away the NFL’s status as a nonprofit organization. That claim was made in a story that has been published by more than half a dozen websites, FactChck.org reported. FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to help identify and label viral fake news stories flagged by readers on the social media network. Facebook users and FactCheck.org readers flagged this rumor as potentially fabricated news.
FactCheck.org found that the story apparently originated on freedumjunkshun.com, a site that publishes “satirical fiction.” It says that Trump signed an executive order on Oct. 8 that “‘temporarily’ revoked [the NFL’s] 401(c)(3) status ‘until it is clear that players and team owners respect their country.’ ”
But the president never signed such an order on Oct. 8 — or any other day. The piece on freedumjunkshun.com also contains a photo of Trump supposedly signing the NFL-related executive order. But the image of Trump actually is from January, when Trump signed an order to reduce federal regulations.
What’s more, FactCheck.org notes, 401(c)(3) is not a tax-exempt classification. There is a 501(c)(3) designation, but it is only for charitable organizations.
The NFL’s league office — which is a separate legal entity from each of the NFL’s teams — had been classified as a 501(c)(6) organization until it dropped the designation in 2015. The classification affords tax exemptions to chambers of commerce, real estate boards and professional football leagues, among others. Professional football leagues were added to that list of organizations in 1966, according to the IRS, to allow the National and American Football Leagues to merge without violating antitrust laws.
The league, in its 2015 IRS filing, described itself as a “trade association promoting interests of its 32 member clubs.” And as Goodell said in his memo, those teams, which account for most of the NFL’s revenue, are taxable entities.
The league office now pays income taxes, but it’s not because of anything Trump decreed.
Carole Fader: (904) 359-4635