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Pay to play.
Chris Johnson finally realized his dream of playing in the NBA when he signed two 10-day contracts with the Memphis Grizzlies in the ’12-’13 season. Countless hours in the gym perfecting his craft appeared to pay off (literally and figuratively) when the Grizzlies offered the rookie a spot on its playoff-bound team. In Johnson’s first game as a Grizzlie, though, he faced not one, but two formidable opponents: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Tennessee “jock tax.”
A “jock tax” is a state or local tax on traveling business professionals, often levied specifically on visiting professional athletes. Essentially, instead of raising taxes on its residents to cover expensive projects like sporting venues–the FedEx Forum in Memphis comes to mind–some state authorities tax professional athletes who (in theory) make a lot more money than the average fan. And so, states like Tennessee literally require professional athletes to pay to play. “Hey, Lebron, nice triple-double. That will cost you $2,500.”
One of the reasons Tennessee’s jock tax is so perplexing is that it requires players in the NBA and NHL (though not the NFL), whether on the home or away team, to pay a flat tax of $2,500 per game (capped at 3 games–$7,500–per calendar year). So, if the Red Wings play the Predators three times in a given year, each player on Detroit’s roster (including the backup goalie) will cough up $7,500 in taxes, which is the exact same amount a member of the Predators would pay for playing forty-one home games–a full season. So much for treating others as you would like to be treated, Tennessee.
Will Tennessee’s arbitrary jock tax ever get repealed? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
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