The NFL - owned by billionaires, led by millionaires, financed by the public

By Laurie Bennett

September 24, 2013 at 9:16am

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year as a nonprofit CEO.

That’s right. The NFL is a nonprofit organization made up of teams owned by millionaires and billionaires. (The interactive Muckety map below shows the league’s billionaire owners.)

As the Atlantic points out in a story headlined “How the NFL Fleeces Taxpayers,” many of those teams play in stadiums financed with big government handouts.

Roger Goodell
Roger Goodell

The Seattle Seahawks, owned by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen, play in a stadium for which taxpayers paid $390 million of the $560 million construction cost.

In New Orleans, the Atlantic notes, the public has chipped in $1 billion to build and then renovate the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, home of the Saints. The team’s owner, Tom Benson, is worth $1.2 billion, according to Forbes.

The NFL itself is tax exempt.

Oh, and did we mention that Roger Goodell makes $30 million a year? According to the league’s 2011 tax return (the most recent publicly available), other employees collected seven-figure salaries.

Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue received nearly $8.6 million in 2011. Five executive vice presidents received multi-million-dollar compensation, ranging from $1.5 million to $8.8 million.

As Gregg Easterbrook writes in the Atlantic:

Perhaps it is spitting into the wind to ask those who run the National Football League to show a sense of decency regarding the lucrative public trust they hold. Goodell’s taking some $30 million from an enterprise made more profitable because it hides behind its tax-exempt status does not seem materially different from, say, the Fannie Mae CEO’s taking a gigantic bonus while taxpayers were bailing out his company.
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