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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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March 26th, 2013
06:07 PM ET

Sports teams honored for charity work receive huge tax breaks

The White House today honored two professional sports teams - the L.A. Galaxy soccer team, and the L.A. Kings hockey team - for their championship seasons and their community service.

The players give time and donations in spades. But while these guys may be paying it forward, the professional leagues they play in - the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer - are not paying much of anything in the way of taxes. Despite the fact that their home state of California is deeply in debt, both of these jock juggernauts are tax-exempt.

In October, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released “Wastebook 2012,” an online chronicle of careless spending. In it, he reported that the nation's price tag on pro-sports is nearly $91 million a year.

"Taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize sports organizations already benefiting widely from willing fans and turning a profit, while claiming to be non-profit organizations," Coburn wrote.

That $91 million includes security, stadiums, and sprawling parades.

The National Football League is also listed as a non-profit. Just this month, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced a $1 billion plan to build a new football stadium for the Falcons, $200 million of which will come from taxes.

"Our convention and tourism business employs 229,000 people, this is our core business in this town. We host 39 million people in this town. We are competing for multiple events right now that I can’t even discuss," said Reed, adding the football stadium "is going to make us more competitive."

The funds for the stadium are slated to come from hotel taxes.

Meanwhile, the NFL made more than $9 billion last season. But at least they had a season. This year's NHL lockout meant the Kings and other hockey teams were off the ice for 3 months, leaving fans out in the cold, while still raking in $3.3 billion. Back then, the president wasn't as cheerful.

"You guys make a lot of money. And you make a lot of money on the back of fans. So do right by your fans," Obama said, commenting on the lockout in December.

The high-dollar players do pay huge individual taxes. It is their leagues that have a loophole. In 2007, Major League Baseball voluntarily surrendered its tax-free status. But many speculate it was to avoid having to report the salaries of its highest-paid players.

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