It’s “pay attention to stadium subsidies” week in the major news media: First the Washington Post’s Norman Chad presented a rundown of recent stadium deals (“If we’re stupid enough to buy a new smartphone every 22 months, why wouldn’t we want a new football stadium every seven years?”); then the Atlantic’s Gregg Easterbrook presented a tour of NFL subsidies in particular, including tax breaks from the league’s tax-exempt status (“Nearly all NFL franchises are family-owned, converting public subsidies and tax favors into high living for a modern-day feudal elite”), drawn from his new book on the league.
For regular readers of this site, there’s not a whole lot of new information in either, though each provides a decent gloss on recent stadium deals. The most interesting tidbit is probably in Easterbrook’s, when he provides this anecdote from the NFL’s battle with the IRS over its nonprofit status:
In 2008, the IRS moved to strengthen the requirement that 501(c)6 organizations disclose payments to top officers. The NFL asked Congress to grant pro football a waiver from the disclosure rule. During the lobbying battle, Joe Browne, then the league’s vice president for public affairs, told The New York Times, “I finally get to the point where I’m making 150 grand, and they want to put my name and address on the [disclosure] form so the lawyer next door who makes a million dollars a year can laugh at me.” Browne added that $150,000 does not buy in the New York area what it would in “Dubuque, Iowa.” The waiver was denied. Left no option, the NFL revealed that at the time, Browne made about $2 million annually.
Now everybody who reads Browne’s Wikipedia page can laugh at him! On the other hand, he gets $2 million a year for his job as a senior advisor at a nonprofit corporation, so he can probably smile through the tears.