California Senate Approves Tax Bill Aimed at Donald Sterling

August 14, 2014

State Tax Notes today reports that the California Senate just approved a bill that would prohibit sports team owners from deducting professional fines as business expenses. The bill, which was approved 27 to 9, is aimed at Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, who made racially offensive comments this year resulting in a $2.5 million fine from the NBA. The bill would only affect team owners, not players.

I argued in June when the bill was introduced:

Sterling is awful, and I’d love to stick it to him, but it’s a little bit weird to bring the tax code into play here. Fines imposed on franchise owners have been a mixed bag: check out this list at ESPN. Sometimes they are for totally reprehensible behavior, like when Cincinnati Red’s owner Marge Schott said nice things about Hitler, but other times they are for things that concern the league and its politics, like when Michael Jordan and Micky Arison were fined for just talking about the NBA lockout.

I suppose I’m a purist; let’s leave the league governance to the leagues, and the tax code to the legislature. Put another way, I believe in the separation of sports and state.

The bill now goes to the Assembly.

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