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The strange tax levied against players in Grizzlies games

Jul 19, 2013, 11:47 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four Getty Images

Lots of states have “jock taxes,” taxes levied on professional athletes – both home and visiting – for making an income while playing in that state. It’s a way to grab money from high-paid athletes who don’t generate much public sympathy and most of whom aren’t registered voters in that jurisdiction.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

But the Tennessee tax is strange, according to Ron Klempner, the interim head of the NBA players’ union, and several other tax experts who have addressed the issue. Any NBA player who is on a team’s roster during any game in Memphis has to pay a flat tax bill of $2,500 for that game. (The same goes for NHL players who pop into Nashville to face the Predators.) The tax applies to a maximum of three games, so that no player pays more than $7,500 per calendar year, Klempner says. The flat rates apply to each player, regardless of his individual income level, and they also apply to Memphis players

I’m no tax expert, but at face value, $2,500 per game seems excessive, and the flat fee seems unfair. A minimum-salaried rookie will make $2,883 per day next season, so a game in Memphis costs that player more than 86 percent of his salary for that day.

I’m not totally against local governments – which, in nearly every case, provide public funding to arenas – recouping some of that invested money via taxes (though the governments could just simplify the process by no longer providing public welfare to billionaires). I’d prefer those taxes were levied on the owners who make the profits, but if the government took the money from owners, player salary would drop, and the effect would be similar.


Except the money doesn’t go to the state — another of Tennessee’s jock tax quirks. It goes to the operators of the Grizzlies’ arena, who happen to also own the franchise, Klempner says. The state doesn’t see a dime, at least not directly. The theory is that arena operators will use the extra cash to spruce things up, draw more celebrated acts, and spend in other ways that will ultimately bring more visitors and money to the Memphis area.

“The state is collecting this money on behalf of a private entity,” Klempner says.

Oh. Well, that doesn’t seem reasonable at all.

  1. packhawk04 - Jul 20, 2013 at 12:04 AM

    Ill take 2883 dollars a day if i have to pay 7500 a year.


    • emosnar - Jul 20, 2013 at 1:37 PM

      Still doesn’t make it fair.

    • cmehustle - Jul 20, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      Im guessing thats not the only taxes they pay. I would take 7500 a year now, and im not anything close to resembling an athlete.

  2. titansbro - Jul 20, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    So Tennessee has no state income tax but they have this? Crazy. And it’s my home state.

  3. lucifershuttlesworth - Jul 20, 2013 at 4:28 AM

    If the cash went to the state or local government it would be less of a jacking. What good does taxing millionaires and giving the money to billionaires do for the people of Memphis? Go Grizz!!

  4. dondada10 - Jul 20, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    Whatever. They’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, and both those guys are filthy rich.

    • emosnar - Jul 20, 2013 at 1:38 PM

      So. Doesn’t make it fair.

  5. sparty0n - Jul 20, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    Sheesh, think about the guy that gets a 10 day contract with a team and then plays in Memphis for a night. He’s basically loosing one-tenth of his pay.

  6. qball59 - Jul 20, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    If I were a pro athlete, I would write all my contracts to stipulate that I only get paid for home games. In other words, any road games I play in are charity events, but I get paid double for all my home games.

    At least that way, I’m not paying taxes in a place where I don’t live and have no voting rights.

  7. ProBasketballPundit - Jul 20, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    All taxes are wrong. If I agree to do a job for $1 then who morally has the right to step in and say give me my share? That’s what makes the government no better than gangsters, forcing us to obey their law with their legal monopoly on force. I would gladly pay volunteer taxes if it meant keeping the police and military operational… but I don’t care for having my money pilfered.

    • juliath83 - Jul 21, 2013 at 12:30 AM

      Sixteen good little Socialists gave you thumbs down.

  8. teambringitstrong - Jul 20, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    LOL As a Californian we laugh when other states run their commercials talking about low or no state income tax and the ‘sheep’ fall for it. Look, states need revenue and they will make their money somehow. You may not pay for it in income tax but YOU WILL pay for it.

    • emosnar - Jul 20, 2013 at 1:39 PM

      Doesn’t make it fair.

  9. dyn0myte - Jul 20, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Wow –

    It’s almost as if laws were written to benefit the wealthiest.

    How is that even possible?

    • juliath83 - Jul 21, 2013 at 12:31 AM

      You haven’t been paying attention, that’s how

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