Is it possible that the NFL could get in trouble with the IRS for its #TakeAKnee campaign which, seemingly overnight, has stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy across the United States? According to Jennifer Kerns of The Washington Examiner, there might be a case for it.
Kerns pointed out that the NFL is categorized by the IRS as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, which means it cannot “endorse a political candidate, nor campaigns nor political issues,” she wrote. They cannot attempt to influence or sway its fans toward or away from a political candidate. Kerns cited the IRS’ Restrictions on Intervention of a Political Campaign as evidence.
Taken from the IRS website, the verbiage says, “… voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.”
Because Trump has stated that he plans to run again in 2020, any political message from the NFL toward or away from him would be a violation of its non-profit status. Kerns argued that the players, when they kneel during the national anthem, and in a broader sense use their platform to protest a candidate, are in danger of crossing that line.
To add fuel to the fire, the NFL receives enormous taxpayer subsidies—by Kern’s estimation $1billion in profits each year—which help improve their stadiums. Teams also receive “hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks annually for their teams, stadiums, practice facilities, and more,” wrote Kerns.
Some taxpaying Americans may have a problem when they perceive that their tax dollars are indirectly supporting a cause, especially if that cause conflicts with their core values as a person.
Kerns pointed out the NFL’s ad on Sunday night during its primetime game that seemed, in her estimation, more of a “political campaign spot than a public service ad for a non-profit group.” She also wondered if the NFL received the non-profit rate to air the ad.