Commentary: Privilege tax on visiting athletes is immoral

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at 1:58am
Tony Zizza

I wonder if the June heat and humidity is starting to get the best of Tennessee State Representative G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis). After all, his latest piece of legislation is chock full of hot air.

Now, I'm not going to mince words. His bill is completely immoral. Sure, some other states have adopted this legislation. Who cares? If something is wrong, it doesn't really matter how few or how many people are doing it.

House Bill 0019 is an absolute outrage. This is a horrendous bill that essentially taxes visiting star athletes who play our Nashville Predators hockey team and our Memphis Grizzlies basketball team. (For some reason, visiting athletes who play our Tennessee Titans football team are exempt. I wonder why.)

This is being called a privilege tax. You've got to be kidding me. It's an immoral jock tax.

Now, are you sitting down? I know some people like to read when they're standing up. I'm not sure how you're going to react to the rationale behind this tax. I want you to be more prepared than I was when I read it. A wave of disgust just about knocked me down.

Well, here goes. The money raised each year — $1.1 million dollars — would be used for "juvenile court-related programs." Yes, you read that right. Juvenile court-related programs.

Hardaway needs to explain how funding such vague programs are somehow the financial responsibility of visiting athletes who are apparently under contract to do a job here for a few hours.

Where does he, and any other politician who favors this insidious legislation, get the temerity to think this stuff up and make it law? This is in no way governance in a free country. This is something you would expect out of a dictatorship.

I'm sick and tired of the road we are traveling down. It seems you cannot wake up in the morning and not read about yet another scheme states are using to grab more tax dollars. If our politicians would simply clean up their own waste and fraud, we wouldn't need to be scheming for the funding of more and more programs.

Individuals are properly doomed if they cannot stick to a simple budget. So too should states. So too should politicians who think they are somehow not doing their job if they have not invented a new way to take money out of someone's pocket and essentially put it into their own.

House Bill 0019, and any other similar piece of legislation, needs to be put to bed — never to gain any traction here in what I thought was the Volunteer state. Surely, the star athletes who visit us from time to time to do their jobs are pumping enough money into the state to satisfy our politicians. Athletes donate more of their time and money than a lot of us do already. I'm sure they do so far more than our elected officials. They are certainly more charitable than Democrats as any statistics on the matter will show.

We have got to get back to the Jeffersonian principle that I believe said that a government which governs least, governs best. I'm not convinced in any form or fashion that an individual state has the right to single out a specific class of people who are visiting for a brief time for an extra tax.

And why athletes? Why are politicians going after them? What does an athlete (visiting another state or not) have to do with funding juvenile court-related programs?

Again, the way politicians twist words to make immoral legislation law is cause for alarm. It's not an extra privilege for an athlete to play in Tennessee or any other state. It's a privilege for us (perhaps even on a discount family night) to watch athletes we've seen on television actually play in person.

Please remember, words have meaning. They must be taken very seriously. Words, unlike basketball or football or hockey, are not a game. I'm here to cry foul on House Bill 0019. So should you. The privilege tax on visiting athletes is immoral.

Tony Zizza is a freelance writer who lives in Hermitage. He writes frequently about government and popular culture. Email:

8 Comments on this post:

By: idgaf on 6/17/09 at 3:39

Dedicated funding of any kind promotes waste. Rather then haveing priorities it allows for excesses in one area while haveing a shortage that has to be made up in another resulting in higher overall taxes and spending that isn't necessary just because they have the money.

By: pandabear on 6/17/09 at 7:39

Well Tony, you're right...but who cares ?

They've been warping the system so long, they finally
came up with a name for it:


By: Dragon on 6/17/09 at 8:10

Many states tax income earned in their state by non-residents. That is the rationale being used for taxing "visiting" athletes.

It may be considered unfair, but immoral is so extreme that it reduces the credibility of the author.

By: idgaf on 6/17/09 at 8:45

We don't have an income tax. This is a targeted shakedown/extortion of only certain atheletes not even all of them which shows just how corrupt they are.

This is a lawsuit waiting to happen by people with money enough to pursue it.

The Titians are exempt how/why? That is what is immoral about it. Like taxing all people with blue eyes.

By: courier37027 on 6/17/09 at 11:41

Hold on there. I though former Nashville Mayor Bredesen sold us on the Titans idea that hotel/motel taxes and game day crowds would give Nashville a tax surplus. Having pro sports would cause manna to fall from the sky. No longer would Nashville need property tax increases. What happened?

By: JohnGalt on 6/17/09 at 11:50

Dragon I believe you'll find the proposed rate of taxation on players visiting Tennessee is far greater than that imposed by other states where Tennessee based teams play.

By: nalafoster on 6/17/09 at 12:47

I believe you will find the tax is prohibited by various agreements with the states and the NFL. An earlier article mentioned this.

By: idgaf on 6/17/09 at 9:50

That would be one way to get rid of the Titians so we can start making money on our investment instead of losing over 20 million a year.