The "Privilege" of Being a Bush-League Honeypot

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Two Tennessee state senators have come up with a brilliant idea—levy an annual $2,500 "privilege tax" on every professional athlete and coach who plays home games in the apparently oxymoronic Volunteer State. As The Elizabethton Star points out,

the privilege tax would be particularly tough for minor league baseball and hockey players whose contracts pay little more than $1,000 per month.

The bill would also force athletes and coaches to carry "specially numbered identification cards that contain personal medical information such as blood type and allergies to athletes and coaches." Lovely. (Link via Baseball Primer).

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  1. I’m allergic to athletes and coaches, but I find that taking a 24-hour Claritin every couple of days helps a lot.

  2. “Elizabethton Star” link currently points to Vegas-mayor-bottle-o’-gin story.

  3. From the headline, I thought this would be an item about Jeff Gannon

  4. Huh? This just can’t be true. Can it?

  5. The Elizabethton Star has a nice comic strip umbrella for only 10 bucks. Maybe Reason can do similar.

  6. Huh? This just can’t be true. Can it?

    Yes it can. Tennessee is the Massachusetts of the South.

  7. It’s a good thing I can still type, because I’ve been struck speechless. Some of them may be arrogant unlikeable guys, some may have exorbitant contracts, but how is being a ballplayer any different that any other job? I really feel for the career minor league schlub, who now loses a nice chunk of his ballplaying income.

    I could easily see other professions becoming subject to a “priviledge tax”.

  8. If this passes, I foresee a lot of clubs suddenly restructuring contracts to get players out of “professional” status. Company housing, free to the players, meals provided for, various subsidies for basic expenses…

    Yeah, next Tennessee will have to define the term “professional athlete” (what about Olympic athletes with endorsement deals? Are golfers considered athletes? What about NASCAR drivers? Chess players?). What kinds of income and/or subsidies count toward professional status? The more I think about it, the more idiotic this gets…and it started out pretty bad to begin with.

  9. Didn’t the WWF got out of paying taxes by admitting that its wrestling is fake? So maybe the Tenn. athletes can claim that they fix their games?

  10. That umbrella does look nice–I just wish I could recognize any of the comics on it.

  11. What if you get cut after a few games. You get paid your $250 for the week. Do you wind up with a $2250 net loss for having a slump? What about guys who are called up to the next level for “a cup of coffee” then sent back down?

  12. This makes even less sense because there is one major league team in the entire state and that’s the Grizzlies. This is pretty much aimed solely at golfers and NASCAR races, but will get most of its money from minor leaguers.

    * This is an indictment of all college sports, not UT specifically.

  13. Though Susan Sarandon can tell you the benefits of being a Bush league sexpot.

  14. Why don’t they just cut out the middle man and force anyone with a cool, “priveleged” job to sponsor people with crappy jobs. News anchors would be paying chicken plant inspectors a direct stipend. Neurologists would send their appointed janitor on a Mexican vacation. C’mon Tennessee, you can do a better job of paving the road to serfdom! Don’t let the abolition of slavery stop you, it never did before.

  15. In a similar vein, some states tax NFL players (away games) on 1/16th of their salary. NFL players are paid on a weekly basis during the season, so the states argue that 1/16th of their earnings are earned in that state. NFL player union was fighting this a couple of years ago, but have not heard an update.

    This tax sounds like a variation on that theme.

  16. Please tell me that Tennessee did not also steal money from its citizens to build the facilities in which these people play in the first place. Please.

  17. Mo–

    A Google search on “Tennessee professional sports teams” returned 8 hits, in baseball, basketball, hockey, and football (including arena football). PLUS, you have to consider the following:

    What is considered a “home game”, or even a “game” for that matter? Will professional bowlers have to declare a home bowling alley so any tournaments hosted there are considered home games? Would a similar rule apply to tennis? How about rodeo?

    A lot of ideas sound good, and become bad ones only when you think through the details. This one has the distinction of being godawful at first blush, and becoming *spectacularly* bad when you try to consider the implications. Not that the legislature will do that.

  18. Chuck,
    That’s why I stated “major league” rather than pro. I forgot the Titans of football (I guess they’ll always be the Oilers to me, I miss the old Run N Shoot). There are pro minor league players, but they are the aforemention $1000/month guys (AFL is still a minor league). I’m guessing this was meant to stick it to the overpaid athlete, which pimarily applies to NASCAR drivers, NFL players, MLB players and golfers. The only guys in the minor leagues making big bucks are the bonus babies of baseball. This screws a lot of guys that can’t afford it.

  19. The context, provided by neither the post nor the article, is this: The state has no income tax. Within the last several years, three major league teams have moved/started here (don’t forget Nashville’s NHL team). Even the players recognize that it’s a *huge* cash bonus to not have to pay state income tax, and some people in the state consider this to be “unfair.” It’s a case of wanting to go after some big cash cows and not realizing it’s going to hit the little guys too. Not to mention the dubious (lack of) reasoning.

  20. Why don’t they just have a state income tax on incomes over $1,000,000. That would seem to solve this problem and raise more revenue.

  21. Mo,

    I agree with you about the intent. My main point is that, besides being a bad idea philosophically, from a practical standpoint there is no way to enforce it without defining the terms “athlete”, “professional team”, and “Tennessee sports team’s home facilities” in a reaonably unambiguous way. This is impossible to do without being arbitrary and unjust. I think I could make a good case that this law, as written, would *not* apply to NASCAR drivers (which track would you identify as a “home facility” of a “Tennessee sports team”?)

    They’ll always be the Oilers to me, too.

  22. Why don’t they levy a “privilege tax” on Tennessee state senators?

    Oh, wait.

  23. They’ll always be the Oilers to me, too.

    Chuck,
    I submitted at the time that they should be the Greasers as a sort of conflation of the theme.

    You know already how we H&R’ers are pariahs to society at large.

    I’m a Tennessee native so I should have had some clout, but…

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