Screw a PGA Tour card, let me get that tax-exempt status

Fallout from the pending LIV-PGA deal going to have larger ramifications than just bad PR

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LIV Golf chief Greg Norman
LIV Golf chief Greg Norman
Photo: Steven Paston/EMPPL PA Wire (AP)

The recent turmoil on the PGA Tour is enough to give a guy acid reflux, but who can blame them? They tried to concede defeat to the LIV Tour only to spark the government intervention they’d hoped would happen when Greg Norman was poaching their best players, and now that sloppiness and spotlight might end the Tour’s very coveted tax-exempt status.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) has written up legislation — the No Corporate Tax Exemption for Professional Sports Act — that would essentially strip pro sports leagues from using the 501(c)(6) status under the Tax Code. While Saudi Arabia has made the Tour a sympathetic figure, unable to match contract offers and court costs, it’s a slug of a corporation like any other.


The circuit was projected to clear $1.522 billion in revenue for 2022, with an estimated $838 million of that allocated for player purses, according to SI. So, regale me, why in the name of Zeus’ butthole does the PGA Tour ever deserve to skate on its tax bill? I’m not a CPA, just an asshole behind a keyboard, but holding a couple of outreach programs for urban overachievers does not qualify as a nonprofit.

MLB, NFL had their wings clipped, and now it’s the PGA Tour’s turn

The NFL lost its cherished tax-exempt status in 2015, eight years after MLB, and it’s a wonder how they ever got away with it in the first place. White-collar crime comes in all forms, including IRS-approved methods, I guess. Regardless of how Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s probe into the PGA-LIV deal comes out, the public will likely need some time to digest its findings — if those discoveries are palatable at all.


I mean just look at the size of the horse Rep. Garamendi came riding in on (via Forbes).

“Saudi Arabia cannot be allowed to sports wash its government’s horrific human rights abuses and the 2018 murder of American-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi by taking over the PGA Tour. PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan should be ashamed of the blatant hypocrisy and about-face he and the rest of the PGA Tour’s leadership demonstrated by allowing the sovereign wealth fund of a foreign government with an unconscionable human rights record to take over an iconic American sports league and avoid paying a penny in federal corporate income tax. This merger flies in the face of the PGA Tour players who turned down hundred-million-dollar paydays from the Saudi-backed LIV to align themselves with the right side of history and human decency.”

Good lord, I haven’t seen that much self-righteousness in one paragraph since my last PGA-LIV column. No one is above reproach, especially not a 78-year-old career politician, or an internet blogger. That said, neither Garamendi nor myself are on trial; the PGA Tour’s image is, and any golf fans who think there’s going to be a good guy in all this are incredibly naive.

Just like the NFL, NBA, FIFA, NHL, and MLB before it, there is no more disillusionment with the PGA Tour’s motivations, and that transparency is ultimately a good thing. Question everything, always.


PGA Tour holdouts should’ve seen this coming

Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, and all of the other golfers who opted not to take blood money really should’ve hedged their soundbites. It’s easy for me to write in hindsight, yet they’re closer to this than even the most inside-y of golf insiders. Prolonged legal battles often devolve into a game of big bank take little bank, and it was clear for the jump whose coffers were better stocked.


If the Tour was really deserving of its nonprofit/tax-exempt status, its alleged altruism wouldn’t have needed to be dragged out of it like a 3-year-old child sharing its Skittles. It’s one thing to hope a multibillion-dollar company does what’s right, but it’s an entirely different prospect to bet your integrity on it.

Perhaps that kind of wealth erodes the kind of cynicism rampant among working-class folk. You know them, right? The people who are very much not tax-exempt.