AP FACT CHECK: Trump seems unaware NFL pays taxes

FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, file photo, the Dallas Cowboys, led by owner Jerry Jones, center, take a knee prior to the national anthem and an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, in Glendale, Ariz. ESPN anchor Jemele Hill has been suspended by the network for two weeks for making political statements on social media. Hill, who is African-American, received criticism from the network last month after referring to President Donald Trump as a "white supremacist." On Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, Hill targeted Jerry Jones, after the Dallas Cowboys owner stated that players who disrespect the flag would not play for his team. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump suggested the U.S. change its tax laws to punish organizations such as the NFL if members are "disrespecting" the national anthem or flag. Actually, the NFL gave up its tax exempt status two years ago and its 32 teams pay taxes already.

TRUMP: "Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!" — tweet on Tuesday morning.

THE FACTS: The NFL gave up its tax exemption for its league office in 2015. The 32 individual teams pay federal tax on all revenue, from ticket sales to merchandise to sponsorship to broadcast revenue.

"The NFL gave up its tax exempt status in 2015 and I think we were quite open why we were giving it up," NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said on a conference call on Tuesday.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a memo to teams in 2015 that effects of the league office's tax exempt status "have been mischaracterized repeatedly in recent years."

Goodell also said then that changing the tax status wouldn't "alter the function or operation of the league office" and "the change in filing status will make no material difference to our business."

Goodell said that money from TV rights, licensing agreements, sponsorships and ticket sales is earned by the 32 clubs and is taxable.

Trump is upset that some players have kneeled during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of black males.

Later Tuesday, Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged the NFL league office gave up its tax exemption in 2015. But she said billions of taxpayer dollars continue to subsidize the construction and renovation of professional sports stadiums.

NFL teams do often receive subsidies from state or local governments for stadium construction and infrastructure.

"If this industry is getting its money from American taxpayers to build the very fields they play on, is it really too much to ask that they show respect for the American flag at the beginning of the games?" she asked.

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