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Richard Rider

Raiders want to move to Las Vegas — income taxes a factor?

The Oakland Raiders are actively courting Las Vegas as their new home — and vice versa.  But one factor has not been mentioned in the articles I’ve read on this NFL romance.  State taxes.


Because of our sky-high 13.3% California millionaires’ income tax, California teams are at an increasing disadvantage with ALL the other states — especially the income tax free states.  Los Angeles and San Francisco teams can offset that disadvantage — both regions offer national media attention — and national endorsements.

Stephen Curry, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are fine examples of the big endorsement opportunities awaiting California media center athletes.  Indeed, they might make more moola from endorsements than they do from their sports salaries!

The pro teams in the secondary CA markets — especially Oakland, Sacramento and San Diego — can’t offer such endorsement enticements. Remember LaDainian Tomlinson — the fantastic star running back for the San Diego Chargers who set NFL records?  He was pretty much relegated to doing commercials for local car dealerships.

While Oakland is close to SF, it’s considered a low income backwater.  And rightly so.  A dangerous criminal backwater at that!

Nevada’s probably not a great place for an NFL team. It has a small demographic footprint, offset somewhat in this case by sports fans coming to Vegas games as a “two fer” visit.

But a major factor favoring Las Vegas (and indeed Nevada) is their zero state income tax.  For pro athletes with precarious employment that could end literally on the next play, it’s important that these jocks bank as much as they can, while they can. If the players don’t get that, their agents and mama’s do!

The state income tax bite is not much of a problem in a pro team’s draft, but it IS a problem when bidding for free agents.  Recently a San Diego Padres fan was lamenting that “his” team didn’t have one legitimate all star player.  Why indeed.

No surprise — when a player becomes all star material, they will be looking to go free agency — let the bidding begin.  State income taxes figure in that bidding.  It’s definitely not the ONLY factor, but it means our CA teams are bidding with an immediate disadvantage in each auction.

There are four California pro teams (not counting minor leagues or hockey) that are doomed to be perpetually weak competitors as long as they remain in their current cities:

  • Sacramento Kings (NBA)
  • Oakland A’s (MLB)
  • San Diego Chargers (NFL)
  • San Diego Padres (MLB)

It doesn’t matter if we San Diegans build the Chargers a new stadium.  They will continue to be mired in the lower half of their division most years.  Look at our pathetic San Diego Padres, who have been getting worse and worse since they got their new ballpark.

This trend of players seeking to avoid California income taxes accelerated with the passage of Prop 30 in 2012 (our 13.3% income tax), and the effect is becoming more pronounced each year as contracts come up for renewal, or these clubs seek star players via free agency. Yeah, we get players through that process — but second tier players.  Some will be good, but seldom will any such players be really good.

Sports fans should connect the dots. High state income taxes can lead to perennially weak pro sports teams.  So far, the fans haven’t figured that out.

And, with too many blinded by their visceral hatred of the rich, maybe they never will. This November, it’s likely that CA pro team fans will join the progressive majority in the Golden State, making the “temporary” CA 13.3% income tax a permanent levy.