FACT CHECK: Do The NFL, NBA And MLB Have Tax-Exempt Status?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims the NFL, NBA and MLB have tax-exempt status.

Verdict: False

None of these organizations have claimed tax-exempt status recently.

Fact Check:

NFL, NBA and MLB athletes have engaged in forms of protest against police brutality and racial inequality, such as taking a knee during the national anthem. The organizations have also shared their support for the Black Lives Matter movement on Twitter.

Some social media users are sharing posts that claim that because of such acts, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should “revoke their tax exempt status.” One such post reads, “Now that the NFL, NBA, MLB is involved in Political Movements, isn’t it time to revoke their tax exempt status??”

Professional football leagues can claim tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code, which the IRS has since extended to all professional sports leagues, according to CNBC News. However, the NFL, NBA and MLB do not have tax-exempt statuses to revoke. (RELATED: Viral Image Claims To Show Former NFL Players Joe Namath And Al Woodall Kneeling During The National Anthem)

Check Your Fact searched through the IRS’s database of tax-exempt organizations but found none of the three leagues on the list. The NFL had tax-exempt status from 1942 until 2015, when it gave up this status voluntarily, according to CBS News. ESPN reported in 2015 that the NBA’s league office had never been classified as tax-exempt, and Major League Baseball ended its tax-exempt status in 2007, per Sports Illustrated.

“An organization that otherwise qualifies for exemption under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(6) will not be disqualified merely because it engages in some political activity,” the IRS states on its website. “In addition, the organization may engage in lobbying that is germane to accomplishing its exempt purpose without jeopardizing its exemption. However, if the organization engages in political and/or lobbying activities, it may need to give members notice of dues used for such activities, or be subject to a proxy tax on the amount of the expenditures.”

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said in a July 14 advisory that “using [Black Lives Matter] terminology is not inherently political activity and [Black Lives Matter Global Network] BLMGN is not currently a partisan political group.”

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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