Brian Rafalski of the Detroit Red Wings was pretty vocal this week about a so-called 'privilege tax' in effect in the State of Tennessee. Essentially, it forces visiting players from teams such as the Wings to pay $2,500 when their teams play the Nashville Predators.
As Dirk Hoag of On the Forecheck pointed out when the tax was put into place last year, it effects opponents of the Preds and the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, but not those who play the NFL's Tennessee Titans, despite the fact that football players generally make more money then their hockey and basketball counterparts.
It applies to both teams - the Preds and Grizzlies and their opponents - and can be assessed for up to three games, or $7500 a head total.
Highly-paid players like Rafalski probably aren't hit badly by it, nor are superstars like LeBron James in the NBA - but what of fourth-liners and benchwarmers making the league minimums in the NBA and NHL? Or what about temporary minor-league callups to the Preds and Grizzlies, or other called-up players that just happen to be with their pro teams when they go to Tennessee? Turns out they actually have to pay to go to work that day.
Oh, and why do the Titans and their 8 home opponents not have to deal with the tax? According to SB Nation, the NFL would have punished Tennessee had they taxed Titans players. Translated - the NFL has enough power to where it can say to Tennessee something along the lines of "if you implement this tax we'll fuck you up" and have that threat be credible. The NHL and NBA are apparently less powerful, and thus their franchises* are now subject to a tax. Somewhere, Mancur Olson is laughing his ass off.
Minor-league baseballers are also exempt - good thing, too, because asking someone who plays for the AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx at $25000 a year to pay $7500 on top of normal income taxes just because they had the misfortune to be drafted by the Mariners would be a disaster.
So why's the tax there? Beats the shit outta me. Tennessee's official website about the tax is here - I couldn't find a justification for it at all.
Yeah, it's tough to cry for NHL and NBA players getting paid a "piddling" $500000 a year. Just remember - pro sports aren't the only thing on which an asinine "privilege tax" can be assessed.
*I say that the franchises are assessed this tax because now, in order to keep players, the Preds and Grizzlies are going to have to shell out an extra $7500 per player just to compete on an even playing field with players on teams who play in a different division.