11 Oct 2017

Trump says NFL shouldn't get tax breaks

6:29 am on 11 October 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump says the National Football League should not be given tax breaks, stepping up his criticism of the world's top-grossing sports league over silent player protests during the national anthem.

Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States waves to the crowd after the final round of the 2017 Presidents Cup in Jersey City.

Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States waves to the crowd after the final round of the 2017 Presidents Cup in Jersey City. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!" Trump wrote in a post on Twitter.

It was not clear what exactly Trump was demanding since the NFL gave up its tax-exempt status in 2015. Representatives for the White House and the league did not reply to requests for comment.

Trump, a Republican, last month called on NFL team owners to fire players who kneel during the "Star-Spangled Banner" to protest police violence against black Americans.

The protests have continued through the season, with some players taking a knee when the anthem is played before each game and others standing arm-in-arm in a show of solidarity.

Critics contend the president is fanning the controversy to distract from issues including devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Mara, tensions with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program and difficulties in pushing healthcare and tax overhauls through U.S. Congress.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a Sunday NFL game in Indianapolis after some players knelt. Critics suggested he had planned on leaving the game early as a publicity stunt.

The majority of NFL players are black, while Trump won the presidency with less support from black and Hispanic voters than any president in at least four decades.

Trump has squared off against the NFL before, having owned a team in the upstart United States Football League in the 1980s.

Trump and other owners pushed for a schedule change that would have had the USFL play at the same time of year as the NFL. An anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL failed and the new league ultimately folded in 1985

The NFL Players Association has defended players' right to protest.

The NFL was granted nonprofit tax-exempt status in 1942, but gave that up in 2015 amid criticism from members of the U.S. Congress.

The 10-year cost to taxpayers of the NFL exemption was about $US 109 million, according to a 2015 estimate by Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation. The teams and their owners are taxable for-profit entities.

The league and almost all team owners do not disclose detailed financial information. A Sports Business Journal survey this year estimated the NFL's income for the 2016-17 season at $14 billion.

NFL teams often seek government subsidies and rely on tax-exempt municipal financing when they build stadiums or perform major renovations of existing properties.

Those projects have cost federal taxpayers $US 3.7 billion since 2000, according to a September 2016 paper by the Brookings Institution.

A wealthy businessman, Trump has refused to disclose his own tax history, departing from a practice of U.S. presidents going back more than 40 years. Trump has said nobody cares about his tax returns, but critics say they could show conflicts of interest.