Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway answers a question during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVIII football game Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Newark, N.J. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

A few weeks ago, ex-Denver Bronco quarterback John Elway shared his political philosophy with Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “I don’t believe in safety nets,” declared Elway — who is currently executive vice president of football operations for the Denver Broncos. Elway seems like a really nice guy. But he should know better.

The taxpayers of Denver paid $300 million for the stadium his team calls home. Which is a whopping 75 percent of the cost of construction. As a result, Elway’s team owns 100 percent of a beautiful stadium for which they paid only a 25 percent share to build. The money the Broncos saved (courtesy of Denver taxpayers) would have helped underwrite Elway’s $4 million-a-year salary when he was their quarterback — 20 years ago.

at least have the plain old-fashioned American decency to acknowledge that those huge salaries are made possible because of a taxpayer-supported infrastructure.

Even now — by foregoing any ownership interest in the stadium, those same taxpayers continue to subsidize Elway’s executive salary — not to mention Peyton Manning’s $15 million annual paycheck. After fleecing fans for $7 bucks a beer at Bronco home games, the least Elway could do is stop adding insult to injury by begrudging unemployment insurance to the out-of-work in Orange Crush nation.

Elway must also realize that the “safety net” he’s dismissing (for people who actually need it) is currently cushioning the corporate coffers of more companies than just his beloved Broncos. The National Football League grossed more than $9 billion last year and paid zero taxes. In fact the NFL has never paid any taxes at all because it is a “non-profit” organization — unlike either the NBA or Major League Baseball.

No doubt the NFL’s army of expensive lawyers, lobbyists and PR flacks will insist that taxpayers are supporting a worthy cause — like subsidizing the $44 million annual salary package of their commissioner, Roger Goodell. He too seems like a really nice guy. They’re all nice guys.

Few people have thrown a football better than John Elway. God bless him. And Goodell — son of a U.S. senator, three-sport athlete at Bronxsville High School, and graduate in economics from Washington & Jefferson College — is probably worth every penny of his $44 million taxpayer-subsidized salary.

Don’t get me wrong, they all should earn as much money as their talent and initiative allows. But please at least have the plain old-fashioned American decency to acknowledge that those huge salaries are made possible because of a taxpayer-supported infrastructure. Dare I say, a corporate “safety net”? Let’s just assume there are probably many good reasons why millions of taxpayers should help pump up the profits of a single company like the Denver Broncos. And let’s assume that it also makes good public policy sense for hundreds of millions of taxpayers to subsidize a non-profit corporation like the NFL.

Still, there’s something downright creepy in the soft-spoken, aw-shucks manner of some people who — while benefiting handsomely from taxpayer-subsidized businesses of their own — go out of their way to decry taxpayer support for things like universal healthcare and free public education which are essential building blocks of the very “opportunity society” they claim to want for everybody else.

Let’s face it.  The problem isn’t Ted Nugent, or even Ted Cruz. Most people recognize insanity when they see it.  TWEET The real problem comes when seemingly reasonable guys like John Elway start popping off about people on Social Security, or Medicare, or unemployment assistance, or public pensions.

Call me crazy but crapping on teachers and cops just doesn’t strike me as a classy thing to do.

The real problem comes when seemingly reasonable guys like John Elway start popping off about people on Social Security, or Medicare, or unemployment assistance, or public pensions.

My father-in-law, Ed Worth, is a rock-ribbed Republican and a very decent guy: retired Navy, devout Catholic — the whole nine yards. A peaceful family get together at his house usually means keeping the conversation focused on grandchildren and sports — that is, until John Elway opened his mouth.

So earlier this month, we got into it big time. And the results genuinely surprised me. I agreed with him that welfare and pension abuse should be ruthlessly rooted out of the system. He agreed with me that wealth should be taxed at the same rate as work. He even went a step further. He proceeded to lay out for me the “Ed Worth Tax Reform Plan.”

Whatever a family needs to live on — call it the first $50,000 of everybody’s income — should be tax-free. Every last dollar after that — whether from the sweat of your brow or the savvy of your broker — should be taxed at the exact same rate (say 20 percent). No caps. No exemptions. No exceptions.

Amen to that.

Now if only John Elway was listening, maybe we could actually get somewhere.


Tags: Football

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  • J_as_in_S

    Beneficiaries of corporate welfare decrying social welfare. Elway and others like him should be reminded that a well educated, healthy population are their consumers! I would endorse the Ed Worth plan except to make the tax progressive from $0 to $50,000 rather than tax free. We have to get rid of exemptions, credits, and deductions in the tax code. Too much favoritism. Too much unfairness.

  • PM

    Ed Worth’s Plan almost works except that the “cost of living” differs wildly across the country. Which begs for a regional COL adjustment to that “tax-free” floor. Which in turn opens the floodgates for all manner of different adjustments to the universal tax. Why make any exceptions in the first place? If we want a truly egalitarian tax system then we should have a single and universal tax rate for all Americans – no exceptions.

  • wetzilla

    “The National Football League itself grossed more than $9 billion last year and paid zero taxes.”

    That’s just not true. The non-profit NFL Organization didn’t gross more than $9 billion, most of that went to the teams, who DO pay taxes on those profits. It is a sham that the NFL is a non-profit, but the majority of the money being made on the NFL is taxed.

  • jefe68

    Well if Mr. Elway wants to live by his own philosophy, I think he and the Bronco’s owe the tax payers of Denver a refund, with interest.

    The NFL should pay taxes, period.

    • wetzilla

      The NFL itself doesn’t make much money. Most of the money is made by NFL Ventures and the individual teams, which is taxed.

      • jefe68

        I beg to differ.
        The NFL will take in over $10 billion in revenue in 2013, and is expected to reach $25 billion within the next 15 years. The TV rights fees alone from CBS, NBC, FOX, and ESPN bring the league $7 billion annually.

        • wetzilla

          That’s the NFL as a whole, not the non-profit NFL League Office. The money from the TV rights is collected by the NFL, but it is then distributed to the 32 NFL teams, who pay taxes on it. All ticket and merchandise revenue also goes to the teams, who pay taxes on it. The majority of the money that the NFL makes is taxed. There’s a lot more info about it in this article.

          • jefe68

            The point of this article is that the tax payers of Denver payed for the stadium and this man has the nerve to make an obnoxious comment about people who are down on their luck. Some of whom might be ex football players, by the way.

          • jefe68

            You know what, It still think they should not be allowed the non-profit status.

          • wetzilla

            I agree, I don’t think they should be a non-profit either, and getting tax payer funds for a stadium is pretty bullshit. But to say that the $9 billion that the NFL took in last year wasn’t taxed is factually incorrect. Almost all of that money was taxed.

  • Independent4Obama

    Mr Elway has to realize that a lot of people who need a safety net are the people who serve and defent this country so he can have the freedom to express his narrow minded views.

  • Jim

    I am glad his team got beaten badly in super bowl. Now, it is time to give his head a beating so that he can think straight.

  • doyle

    What a bunch of whiny unemployed communist deadbeats in here. You all are patheitc.

    • Ben

      To Doyle: Troll time so soon?. Reasonable people are trying here to have an adult conversation. If this causes you to feel inadequate, then just go away and pout.