On Pence and the NFL: Protesting a Protest or Upholding an Oath?

This morning, President Trump took to twitter and wondered via social media (as only he can) why the NFL is getting “massive tax breaks” while engaged in a protest that involves taking a knee every time the National Anthem is played before games.

The press, whose hair lights on fire every time Trump gives them a sparkly to play with, of course spent the morning correcting the president on just what kind of tax breaks the NFL receives:

The NFL voluntarily dropped its tax exempt status in April 2015 ​after lawmakers questioned whether the billion-dollar sports league deserved the tax break.

In a memo to Congress and team owners, NFL Commissioner Roger Godell called the tax-exempt status a “distraction” that “has been mischaracterized repeatedly.”

“The fact is that the business of the NFL has never been tax exempt,” ​he continued​. “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.”

That’s all fine and well, but the NFL is generously subsidized by government at the state level, as this report from Michael Farren, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center writing in Medium, shows.

Farren writes that when Indianapolis lured the Colts away from Baltimore in the early 1980s with promises of public funding for a new stadium — after Baltimore refused to use public funds to renovate the Colts stadium there — that was the beginning of public subsidies of the league that, prior to that, were nearly unheard of:

In their book, Field of Schemes, Neil deMause and Joanna Cagan described the Colts’ move to the new stadium subsidized by Indianapolis as “the tip of the sports-welfare iceberg.” By 1992, 77 percent of all US professional sports stadiums had been paid for, at least in part, by taxpayer funds. Within the same decade, almost half of all professional sports franchises were once again requesting public funds for new facilities or were already in the construction/renovation process. Since then, the use of public funds to subsidize facilities for professional sports has consistently trended upwards. The imbalance of bargaining power enjoyed by team owners also means that the duration of leasing contracts for use of public stadiums has grown shorter. As a result, some cities have been left with decades of construction bond payments even after the sports team they benefited has moved to a different city.

So while the NFL doesn’t receive tax breaks as a non-profit, they are subsidized by the taxpayer, something Farren says is increasingly proven to be less than ideal for communities. “A sizable body of academic research indicates that subsidizing a professional sports facility does not provide the benefits claimed by proponents. In fact, as we discuss here, stadium subsidies actually create hidden costs for the local economy,” he writes. 

Which brings us to Mike Pence and his decision not to honor the players’ (and the league’s) “take-a knee” protest. The Vice President, in a near certain pre-planned, calculated move, walked out of last Sunday’s Indianapolis/San Francisco game when players knelt as the anthem played, and later said in a statement that neither he nor POTUS would “dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.”

It’s tempting to see what Pence did as a counter protest of sorts; and it’s equally tempting to see it as an arrow in the quiver of Trump’s complaints about the tax breaks (and presumably) publicly-funded subsidies the league enjoys.

And perhaps there’s some of that in there. But it was pointed out to me that there’s likely another reason Pence left the ball game Sunday: it is, very simply, his job.

As we’ve reported here at RedState, there’s some evidence to suggest that the NFL is in league with George Soros and his labyrinthine network of organizations, all working to community organize the country into chaos before the socialist revolution (or something along those lines).

Pence, as Vice President, takes an oath, much like the military, to defend the Constitution from enemies both “foreign and domestic.” I would venture a guess and say that Pence might actually associate defense of the anthem and the flag as symbolic parts of that same Constitution. Rather than counter-protesting  and engaging in a cynical political game, Pence went to Indianapolis to do the job his office demands he do.

There will surely be those who would disagree with that assessment, many within the league themselves. But it may be something they want to reconsider as the NFL appears to be slowly dropping its interest in allowing and sanctioning the players’ protests. Because league leaders are likely aware that Farren’s report, and others like it, are being circulated and discussed as a viable solution to the problem of NFL protesting, both by players and by fans.