For all of the talk over the last few years about wanting to keep politics out of football, a pair of freshman members of Congress took the occasion of the Super Bowl to have a football-related argument about marginal tax rates.
Representative Dan Crenshaw, the Republican from Texas who’s perhaps best known as the incoming congressman who went on Saturday Night Live to spar with Pete Davidson in December, had a tax-related point to make after the Patriots won the Super Bowl Sunday night.
“Should someone propose a 70% tax on the Patriots so that NFL competition is more fair and equal? Asking for a friend,” Crenshaw wrote on Twitter.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a Democrat and one of the only freshman members of Congress who’s better known than Crenshaw, quoted the tweet to relate football to tax policy in another way.
“The average NFL salary is $2.1 million, so most players would never experience a 70% rate. The owners who refuse to hire Kaepernick would, though.”
Ocasio-Cortez, earlier this year, proposed a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent, which would kick in for those earning $10 million a year. Opponents have often left the “marginal” part out and implied that the proposed rate is merely 70 percent of everyone’s money.
Going by their 2018 salaries (per Spotrac), and discounting any non-football income, the 70 percent rate would hit seven players who played in the Super Bowl this year, out of the more than 100 players on the two rosters: Aaron Donald, Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, Andrew Whitworth, and Michael Brockers of the Rams, and Tom Brady and Stephon Gillmore of the Patriots. Both team owners, however, are well into the 70 percent tax bracket.
— Brookings Econ (@BrookingsEcon) February 4, 2019
But leaving aside percentages that go toward taxes, the NFL and other sports leagues have gone to great lengths over the years to encourage parity and fair competition. This is why the teams with the worst records get the highest draft picks, and also the reason for the NFL’s salary cap, which is meant to ensure that all teams have the same limit for spending on players. The NFL also shares television revenue evenly among the 32 teams.
Usually, when teams win Super Bowls or are otherwise competitive for a long time, every player wants a raise but not everyone can get one and some players end up leaving, although the Patriots have found various ways to avoid the sort of decline that the NFL is built to encourage.
Ironically, Major League Baseball actually has a system similar to what Crenshaw proposed. The sport really does impose a luxury tax on the teams with the highest payrolls in order to ensure fairer competition. Although this offseason, it has had the effect of a mostly frozen free agent market.