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Volume 24 No. 112

Sports in Society

Reps from the NHLPA, the NBPA and the Grizzlies are scheduled to appear at a Tennessee state Senate hearing today to discuss a bill that would repeal the state’s tax on NHL and NBA players. The hearing on the bill, which was introduced in February to repeal the '09 tax of $2,500 a game or a maximum of $7,500 total, is set for 1:00pm CT in Nashville. NHLPA General Counsel Don Zavelo, NHLPA Special Assistant to the Exec Dir Mathieu Schneider, NBPA counsel Dave Kiefer and Steve Kidder, outside counsel to the NHLPA and the NBPA, are scheduled to speak as proponents of the bill to repeal the tax. Grizzlies and FedExForum COO Jason Wexler is scheduled to speak in opposition to the bill. Each side will have 30 minutes to make their statements in front of a three-senator ad-hoc committee chaired by Jack Johnson, who introduced the bill. It is the first hearing of the ad-hoc committee, and the Tennessee legislature cannot vote on it until January. The tax is unusual in that it is paid to the operators of the Grizzlies' and Predators' arenas. Predators officials are not scheduled to appear at the hearing, as the NHL under the new CBA agreed to reimburse NHL players for such taxes as well as to work to repeal such taxes. The NHL will not be sending someone to speak at the hearing but has sent a letter in support of repealing the tax, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly wrote in an e-mail. “We agreed to the notion that discriminatory taxes could be problematic in our last CBA,” Daly wrote. “This one in particular singles out hockey Players (and basketball players). It’s not in the League's interest for hockey Players to have to pay more money in taxes just because they play hockey games in Nashville.”

TAX AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVE: Wexler said that the tax is an economic development incentive for the citizens as well as the city, county and state because FedExForum uses the money as an incentive to attract high-level concerts and events. Wexler plans to explain to the committee how it benefits those constituencies “and why it was necessary when it was implemented and why it is still necessary today.” Wexler said, “It really has been very impactful. We’ve had Elton John, Paul McCartney, and we have the Eagles coming up this fall, and it facilitates our ability to get those kind of shows,” he said. But Zavelo and interim NBPA Exec Dir Ron Klempner said the tax hurts players, especially the minimum wage NHL and NBA players. NHL players have paid $2.2M a year under the tax and NBA players have paid about $1.1M a year since it was implemented in '09.