Republican Senator targets NFL’s tax-exempt status

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The many NFL owners who are staunch Republicans may need to re-think their affiliations.

From Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who derailed the effort to upgrade Sun Life Stadium, to Arizona Senator John McCain, who wants to outlaw blackouts at publicly-funded stadium, and now to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who wants to remove the NFL’s tax-exempt status, a trio of Republican politicians have been putting the screws to pro football.

Coburn’s effort, as explained by Dave D’Allesandro of the Newark Star-Ledger, applies to other pro sports leagues that have shoehorned their way into non-profit status, including the NHL and the PGA.  Coburn believes that stripping the assessment from the NFL and NHL alone will generate $91 million per year in additional tax income.

The specific benefit to the NFL of tax-exempt status isn’t known, but the league already has decided that the reduced tax burden justifies the inability to shield from public view the salaries paid to key officials.  Commissioner Roger Goodell, for example, made nearly $30 million in the year covered by the most recent filing.  If the NFL didn’t possess tax-exempt status, no one other than the league’s owners and a handful of league-office employees would know how much Goodell makes.

During the 2011 lockout, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith repeatedly included the league’s “non-profit status” in his public attacks on ownership.  But the reality for the players remains a simple one — if the NFL must pay increased taxes via the loss of the ability to fall within the borders of tax-exempt status, the owners will find a way to squeeze all or part of that money from the players, either now or when the labor deal expires in eight years.

We all should pay our fair share of taxes, and under current laws the NFL apparently is.  But if enough politicians conclude that “fair” should be redefined, more cash will be separated from 32 people who have plenty of it.

111 responses to “Republican Senator targets NFL’s tax-exempt status

  1. Since when did Republicans call for more taxes on either exorbitantly rich people or entities like exorbitantly rich organizations?

    I thought those were the only Republican constituents anymore.

  2. What possible reason is there for the NFL to be tax exempt?!?

    I love football but why should it be treated differently to any other business?

  3. I realize many, many people go to stadiums across the country to worship their teams every Sunday at the ” Chapels of the Immaculate Gridiron,” however TAX-EXEMPT STATUS?!

  4. As opposed to President zero who raIsed their taxes several times and demonizes billionaire every chance he gets. They are not going to rethink anything.

  5. “We all should pay our fair share of taxes…”

    Fair is a purely subjective term. American workers are allocating more of their income to gasoline and food (as a result of higher gas prices and inflation) than ever. Meanwhile, the people who really don’t understand how an economy works are saying we need to take more money out of the employers’ pockets, which ultimately becomes less money for their employees and creates less incentive to hire (although regulations and minimum wage laws are more of a disincentive). I’m not saying the NFL should be tax-exempt – I am just taking issue with the “fair share” line that’s force-fed to us in the universities and by the television networks. My problem with the NFL isn’t that it doesn’t pay more to the government – it’s that it has built the foundation of its product (stadiums) on the backs of people who had to pay their “fair share.” Don’t you realize that if people weren’t taxed to fund a stadium, then a team could slightly raise its prices because the taxpayers would have a little more money in their bank accounts? In that situation, those who truly supported the presence of the team in their area would pay those prices. But free market be damned, the teams know they can get more money by using government to force the taxpayers to pay their “fair share.”

  6. Do republicans ever think about anything other than money (and guns)? Every policy proposed by Republicans revolves round the almighty dollar. Makes me sick. Democrats aren’t much better but at least they are constantly working for equal rights (not talking about bearing arms either). Politics make me sick. I’m proud to not vote. It’s a fixed game folks.

  7. John McCain wants to force business owners to give away their product. That’s a great conservative for you. That’s exactly why I didn’t vote for him for President. He’s a total fraud.

  8. The NFL should not have any special tax status. They are a for profit league and they receive taxpayer subsidies.

    I agree 100%, there should never be a blackout in any stadium that received any public money, tax money or any break on any part of the process.

  9. “We all should pay our fair share of taxes, and under current laws the NFL apparently is.”

    What’s fair about zero?

  10. That’s funny one of their own turning on them. Normaly the rich look after the rich. Allk republicans want to do is make the every day man pay for them to get tax breaks and say it will trickle down lol what a joke

  11. Its funny one of them turning on each other. Most republicans want the every day man to pay for them getting tax breaks and say it will trickle down to the workers of America. lol what a joke Its time the rich pay their share Im tired of carrying them

  12. If you ask me or most economist a flat tax tax based on your income would be the best way to go. Bill gates and Buffet both say they do not pay enough tax and they are 2 of the richest men in the world so maybe the repukeicans should listen to them. Quit taxing the everyday man to pay for the rich

  13. The democrats are probably pissed they didn’t think of this. They are more concerned with changing the names of teams and Obamacare.

  14. This is just another case of the Republican Party of stabbing some one in the back who doesn’t do what they want them to do. But that is ok because come Nov. 2014 the Republican Party may just cease to exist.

  15. And Florio’s personal politics float to the top of a sports blog once again.

    I’ve never heard him critique a single democrat.

    Oh well. It’s his site.

  16. Nothing good to say here…. I really would need pages & pages… Coburn is being an a$$-clown

  17. Too funny ; repubs turning on their own !

    Next thing you know , rich people will actually have to pay taxes ( no more loopholes ) , the health care plan will have a public option so every American can go to the damn doctor when they need to , and right-wing politics will stop being shills for corporations , radicals and fear mongers .

    Oh wait – what was I thinking ..

  18. A nationwide sales tax is way to go. No exceptions. You pay tax on what you can afford to buy.

  19. Flat tax is great, steelpalace. But you might want to study your politics a bit more. ACA is about to kick in, Democrat-sponsored ACA, and you are about to get crushed in new “fees” for health care. Democrats don’t call them taxes.

    Don’t be naive – both parties tax the hell out of us.

  20. Let me get this straight. NFL teams have tax exempt status. Except for GB no team is publicly owned. Teams receive that status as a public trust….i.e. fans of cities and states. YET…a team can pull out in the middle of the night..Cleveland.
    Move down state to another city…..Oakland. Threaten to LEAVE unless you build a stadium…several team owners. Usually do not own their stadiums…..built and owned by public
    entities……taxpayers. And what do we get?
    The right to be a fan……..As for players…….Money Talks/Bird Seed Walks!

  21. I find it’s generally good practice to not listen to anything that comes out of the state of Oklahoma.

  22. Problem is this additional tax liability the NFL would take on will just go right back on the fans in terms of increased prices for concessions, jerseys, tickets, etc.

  23. Well, my prediction for the next social/political issue you were going to ram down our throats was abortion. I should have guessed Republican bashing but that was too easy.

  24. At least over 98% of the jobs the nfl creates are for american citizens. The real villains are the companies that pay bare minimum taxes to no taxes and ship the majority of their jobs to asia. The NFL being tax exempt is hysterical, but there are far worse companies out there.

  25. The NFL is tax-exempt, the owners and teams are not. That being said, I don’t know how they would generate 90 million in taxes if the NFL truly operated as a non-profit. Does tv income go to the NFL and then distributed (like a dividend?) to the teams. They could tax it twice. I think the Republucan pushing this doesn’t know anything about taxes.

    That blackout rule, however, that’s a really good point.

  26. Thats because Coburn knows that this country is broke. Deficit at 17 trillion now and counting. A monstrosity Obamacare law which is going to cripple the US even more. Obama refuses to cut ANY spending at all unless dragged kicking and whining aka sequester cuts. Barely any job growth. We need money and revenue. Unless they cut spending, they will look to other avenues to get the money.

  27. Fair has only one meaning. Not complicated. It only becomes complicated when someone is trying to unfairly benefit from the appearance of fairness.

  28. It’s not often I agree with a republican, let alone three, but I’m all for all the above bills.

    Teams with publicly funded stadiums shouldn’t be able to blackout the viewers that already gave their money to the team by helping them build the stadium in the first place with their tax dollars.

    And public money for stadiums is a joke to begin with. If we’re spending public money, don’t we have schools, roads, and a deficit to spend it on?

    And what’s with the tax exempt status? If sports are a public service, Tiger Woods and Jeff Gordon should declare themselves tax exempt.

  29. Hey, Florio! Knock off the politics, please! That you’re a lawyer says enough about you. But why must you open flaunt your political bias? How about just sticking to the matter of the game as it’s played on the field!!!!!

  30. This article is a complete sham and doesn’t share the whole story. The NFL is tax exempt because all of the revenue is booked on the individual franchise ledgers which are taxed and the writer of this article either does or should know this and is just playing stupid political games. For the NFL there is nothing to tax thus a tax exempt status. Now the Franchises, they pay a healthy sum in taxes.

  31. While the NFL as a league may be tax exempt, the individual teams are not. If you check out the Green Bay Packers financial statements, you will see that they DO pay federal income taxes. Note that the Packers ARE exempt from Wisconsin income taxes because the State of Wisconsin considers the Green Bay Packers to be a non-profit organization – because no shareholders receive any of the profits. The profits either go back into the organization or are distributed to the community through the Green Bay Packers Foundation. But, again, the Packers do pay federal income taxes.

  32. Florio…why did YOU make this a political discussion? It’s not Dem or Rep, but why in the “H” would the NFL be tax-exempt? You just don’t get it…Republicans are for fiscal responsibility and common sense – not for millionaires – as Dems want you to think. They want to allow money in the hands of job creators to help us all (including minorities!), but not for these owners ripping us all off while already using the stadiums that we build for them to make billions. Are Democrats really going to jump on Florio’s bandwagon in favor of millionaires. If so, then YOU ALL are the biggest hypo-crats!

  33. For Demarus Smith to be bringing up the subject as an issue is really dumb since if the tax exempt status were revoked as the article suggests it will only be trickled down onto the players which he represents to cushion the burden from the owners.

    I still don’t get why the players voted for a guy who consistently doesn’t understand how the bigger Macro- Economic picture works. They should replace him.

  34. The NFL is on the forefront of medical research, pushing the boundaries of human achievement, injury and recovery (A. Petersen) and nerve regeneration (P. Manning), medical advances in steroids, HGH and other experimental cures for the betterment of overall human survival. Deserves to be as tax exempt as your nearest local hospital at least.

  35. $91 million dollars could buy the government a new hammer….or health insurance for 3 people under Obamacare.

  36. Sounds to me like a shake down, Repubs dont feel the NFL owners kicked in enough Jack to their super pacs last election……that will change in 2014, watch……these guys are ruthless……

  37. Any organization that has ANYONE on the payroll that makes over $250k, should pay some taxes. Yes, even charities & religious organizations should be included. After all, if someone is bringing home $250k in salary, the organization is large enough and there’s enough cash flow coming in that they can afford to give something back. The taxpayer shouldn’t have assume the burden of some charity paying their CEO over a million a year nor should they have to assume the burden of “hush money” for victims of pedophile “holy men”. Tax exempt should only apply to the smallest of organizations that work towards the common good.

  38. Isn’t the NFL as an organization considered non profit and the teams individually for profit except for Green Bay?

  39. Judging by the news that came out Friday the only benefit these guys would have by becoming democrats would be so the IRS won’t audit them

  40. It should not matter. The NFL should not make any money all the money should go to the teams. If that is not how it works now it will be if they lose the exemption. They are a pass through entity. It’s like a partnership, partnerships do not get taxed, but the income of the partnership is passed through to the partners and they are taxed.

    A similar but different situation is with sales tax. If Apple sells Ipads to Best Buy, Best Buy does not pay sales tax. Sales tax is only paid by the final purchaser.

  41. As a member of the middle class, I would love to see a flat tax rate across the board. I am tired of carrying the tax burden for the country, paying nearly 20% of my earnings for being responsible and not procreating before I was ready while the underachievers receive most of the benefits while irresponsibly have kid after kid that they cannot afford. Let alone the upper class getting all the breaks so it will “trickle down”. It made sense during Reagan years just like the New Deal made sense during FDR’s time but both are severely outdated now and need to be reformed.

  42. I love the brainwashed morons who think that Democrats in Wash are not super rich, or are on the side of the “little people”. I have some land to sell ya!

  43. You say the players would get squeezed if the NFL loses its coroprate welfare. I hate to break it to you, but the players won’t give up any money. To make up for that revenue, the NFL will simply raise prices, leaving the fans to foot the bill. The fans always foot the bill.

  44. The very fact that the NFL, the most glaringly for-profit league in the world, could succeed in declaring itself a non-profit entity is indicative of the extent to which the American public has been brainwashed into subsidizing the super-rich.

    Non-profit status for a league that tries to make every last dime? No problem. New stadium on public money? No problem. Stadium upgrade on public money? No problem. Bailouts for Wall Street banks? No problem. But affordable healthcare, welfare, and debt relief for the poor and middle class? PROBLEM.

  45. You know, if our government wasn’t $17 trillion plus in debt, I might be in favor of Coburn’s proposal.

    However, when you consider that our federal government is adding $4 billion to the national debt EVERY SINGLE DAY, $91 million doesn’t look like much. Our government would have that money spent in five minutes.

    Because of that, and until our government can learn how to balance a budget, I say Coburn can stick that proposal where the sun doesn’t shine.

  46. Hey steelpalace You should try this thing called google before you spout nonsense. The top 50% of the country pays on average 96% of the countries taxes so what is the everyday man actually contributing to this country other than manpower? It’s people like you that are ruining this country please go play on the interstate.

  47. Coburn is a fiscal conservative who has recently taken on the opposing view (liberal) of raising taxes to fix our current financial woes. I oppose any and all tax hikes regardless of who it effects. Even though it is laughable that the NFL is tax exempt the league does generate far more total tax revenue in its home cities than it would pay as a group. The “uneducated voter” is well represented in these comments though. It’s quite remarkable.

  48. I’m surprised that the NFL hasn’t based their HQ somewhere in the Caribbean to prevent themselves from paying any taxes.

  49. The NFL, PGA, and NHL need to pay their fair share of taxes just as the NBA, MLB, and WNBA does.

    It is illogical to push forward the idea that taxes paid by others connected to the NFL makes their Non-Profit status a fair one.

    This forum should push to present the news, NOT be a shill for the NFL.

  50. “Obama refuses to cut ANY spending at all unless dragged kicking and whining aka sequester cuts.”

    Yeah, you may want to check your facts on that one. Spending has been cut all through out his administration. Which is one of the reasons unemployment is so high.

  51. Anything that produces more taxes for our broken, corrupt government to waste is a joke.

    Taxes are a broken, failed system and should be done away with and reworked to provide a fair way to pay Washington just enough to do what it needs and not a dime more.

  52. Hey texasbuco I know it all. So you think your broke republican Toyota driving stupid ass knows more than one of the richest men in the world ? Maybe you should do your homework you stupid southern ass. People like you are the reason this country is in the shape it is and its time us northerners kicked your southern asses again to shut you up once and for all.If you don’t like America get out you stupid ass but first read this.

    When asked about the argument that taxing the wealthy would actually hinder job creation by putting pressure on companies to contract and hire less, Gates said he didn’t see that to be the case.

    “There is no strong correlation between job creation and what the tax environment has been at any point in time,” gates said. “If something’s a profitable activity, you’re going to engage in it. Yes, there are tax rates that are so high that people may work less. But that’s — you have to get up in the 50, 60 percent range before that’s the case.”

    According to Forbes, Gates is the second richest person in the world with a net worth of about $56 billion. Coming in at a close third-place is Warren Buffett with a net worth of about $50 billion. President Barack Obama said in his State of the Union address this week that under the “Buffett Rule,” millionaires should pay a minimum tax rate of at least 30 percent, even for income derived from investments.
    But your ass thinks he knows more than the 2 richest men in the world right but should anyone expect more? It was a stupid Texan who put us in this mess in the first place.

  53. There’s a difference between being against high taxes and being in favor of taxing people or companies who take advantages of non profit loopholes for tax exempt status. Its ridiculous for all these democrat governors like mark dayton to call for higher taxes on the rich, but at the same time exempting his favorite special interest groups like the green lobby, or sports teams. but hey, at least he Is consistent and doesn’t make taxes pay for a billionaires stadium. that would be laughable wouldn’t it?

  54. “the owners will find a way to squeeze all or part of that money from the players”

    The players? Please…more like from the fans in the form of increased ticket prices and concession prices.

  55. I’m betting a cold bologna sandwich that if this was a plan being pushed by Obama or Democrats it would likely not get a write-up, or if it did, it would be hailed a worthy cause: worth supporting.

    It’s Republicans, though, so Florio wants NFL owners to re-think their political allegiance.

    When does this site get to be about football again? I’m sick of the political mumbo-jumbo.

    Also, I’m not a Republican. I’m just pointing out that this site’s authors can’t separate their politics from their opinions from their profession.

  56. If ya team can’t sell enough tickets you deserve to be blackd out..Publicly funded stadium or not..buy the Sunday Ticket. Chances are if ya own fans DONT wana pay to see you in person no one wants to see you take up National or local TV time.

  57. The biggest shock to me in reading the comments here is how uninformed people truly are. Brainwashed sheeple .

    BOTH parties suck. BOTH parties are corrupt.

    However, Obama and his pals have done far more damage to this country than the Republicans have.

  58. Next they should review the tax status of the NRA, which has hundreds of millions to bribe, er “lobby” Congressmen and Senators. They should also review churches that are defacto political organizations and telling their flocks who to vote for.

  59. Does it really matter which political party they belong to? NFL is a non-profit? What a joke. They should get out of paying 91 mil in taxes just so we can know Goodell’s salary? Florio the flaming liberal is defending the NFL? Crazy. This article just shows that Florio is without principles.

  60. I am so baffled by this article and the comments. Florio talks as if the evil Republicans want to take money from the poor NFL. Then ends the article by talking about how the 32 owners “have plenty of money.” So…are you for or against these politicians taking money from the NFL? Since when are republicans the ones who are trying to take money from the rich and being called evil for it? Sounds like Florio is Democrat and doesn’t really care what the GOP does, he’s against it either way.

    Florio, stay out of politics and stick to football. I miss football.

  61. The country is pretty split between the two parties, and from the comments, so are the readers of this site.

    A half-assed, full-biased article like this isn’t going to make ANYONE change their political allegiance, it’s only going to start a comment war.

    Florio, I have a serious question. Are you some kind of pervert who gets off on Internet arguments? That’s the only reasonable explanation for what you’re doing here.

  62. So when taking away the tax exemption could have adverse effects on the NFL and the game we all love, you oppose it. But you’re pro HGH testing and not interested in educating the public on the difference between HGH and steroids. Weird.

  63. Steelpalace I have no problem with the north or east or west for that fact. In fact I like to spend my hard earned money visiting the northeast. I am a republican because I believe it is the lesser of the 2 evils but the entire system is corrupt. Here is just a thought from my mindset as a small business owner. If I was in the top 1% I would want higher taxes. As a top 1%’er I would have the resources to pursue profitable avenues and that would keep thousands of small business owners from pursing based on lack of resources. In turn I would make even more money. Mr. Bates and Mr. Buffett got where they are in life by being smart men, and if a stupid southerner could think of an idea like this do you really think they weren’t intelligent enough too? If they really feel like they are cheating the system they could write a check. I have no doubt the government would be more than happy to take it.

  64. There is a difference between the NFL and the owners. Surely it is only the NFL itself that is tax exempt, not the individual teams meaning that those 32 organizations that actually generate the $9BN annually all pay tax on their own revenue?

  65. I am 100 percent in favor of taxing the NFL who is the only organization I can think of who uses tax funds for their own profits while paying no taxes at all.

  66. What taxes will they pay. Virtually all income is passed on top the teams who do pay taxes.

    You can’t tax it twice, supposedly.

    So I’d like to know how much money is held aside for the league. Not it’s employees, they are paying taxes.

    So how much is left to be considered corporate.
    income?

    Someone makes an incorrect statement and many of fell in line with your damnation without the benefit of the facts.

  67. I should be tax exempt. It seems like every penny I make goes to bills. How can I get not for profit status?

  68. It’s been known for a long time that the NFL is officially a non profit organization. The tax issue is a result of that status. Nothing surprising with this story.

  69. Please don’t imply that the NFL is paying it’s fair share simply b/c they are adhering to the current status of the tax law. And dear God, don’t cry a river for the poor players who will be “squeezed” of their minimum wage $375,000/year salary if the NFL’s tax-exempt status is ever removed.

  70. The NFL takes in money from tickets, PSL’s, concessions, parking, and NFL branded items paid for by Joe Fan. This discretionary income is already taxed and paid for by the Joe Fan.
    Any additional taxation on NFL revenues would be a “double tax” to the NFL/owners …. Roger, that!

  71. Being a fiscal conservative, I really believe that the federal Govt. taxes and spends WAY TOO MUCH of our money already…that being said, the NFL is NOT a non-profit! Most teams already get breaks on property tax from the states, as well as being able to write off a lot of there operating expenses. So while I do believe that the NFL should pay taxes like any other business (even though our corporate tax rates need to be addressed because they are the highest in the free world!), I don’t believe in giving the bloated federal govt. even more money to spend on free phones for everyone, studying the mating habits of walruses, or giving billions of dollars to solar panel manufacturers who will be out of business in 6 months!
    Our government is like a crack addict, and our tax money is the drug….time to cut them off!!!!

  72. Tom Coburn is gonna see a huge donation to his re-election campaign here in a few days and he’ll all of a sudden change his stance.

  73. “The many NFL owners who are staunch Republicans may need to re-think their affiliations.”

    Keep dreaming Cornflorio.

  74. Yes, that’s the ticket, because the NFL product isn’t already expensive enough for consumers.

    The day the NFL loses tax exempt status is the day the lawyers find all the loopholes so they don’t have to pay.

  75. 1) Arizona taxpayers used public funds to pay for the stadium for Cardinal ownership?

    LOL, that is a good one.

    2) Senator from state with no NFL team wants NFL teams to pay more taxes? Predictable, and reasonable.

    3) Btw, the Patriots did not use public funds or “personal seat licences” to pay for Gillette, just for the public infrastructure around the stadium… and people call teh Patriots cheaters, lol, who is getting cheated? The taxpayers of NY, FL and AZ.

  76. Steelpalace must have missed that recent article on the robust and growing Texas economy, meanwhile California is broke as a joke. Nfl should have to pay taxes just like anyone of any other business should this isn’t a R or D issue this is about what is fair and legal.

  77. This come up every 4 to 5 years from some lame reporter like you, from some let me get my name in lights senator. It means nothing, look it up. The system is in place. The Whitehouse is now even open for school tours, do you thik this means anything?????

  78. STOP THE PRESS!!!

    Just like the “UnCAPPED Year” theres more than just on the surface…

    Lots of Cities / States give “Tax Breaks” for businesses to locate in their area.

    At first i was like WHAT-THE-FAVRE!!! But then thinking about how SF, promised Tax breaks to Facebook to build their offices down town. To Create Jobs, bring more money there and stimulate the Econ.

    So not all of NFL has 100% tax breaks. And the Owners and Players still pay on their Income.

    Certain Businesses / Franchise pay a lot in Property Taxes – Sales taxes…etc that they get some Breaks/exemptions on other taxes.

    So its not like NFL is = to a Non-profit.

    91 Million in taxes… thats a little less than 3 Million per team. Or is this just based off the NFL New York office?

    Its amazing how us as a Nation WORSHIP our Clebs – Sports heros…etc etc…

    They are here to ENTERTAIN US!! and they make MILLIONS!! Well i agree the Owners cant keep all that and pay the players peanuts. The World is like this too… Not as bad as USA. But still look at Soccer players and Singers / Clebs in other Countries… Kind of sickening …

    But Supply and Demand. And CANT MISS NFL Sunday’s! The Product is that GOOD!

    Would a Grass roots LG ever work? Could ppl get behind that… if that Talent was close? Or all the Media and Marketing makes NFL-NBA-MLB-NHL the Best and we HAVE to consume it!! ???

    Last year there was i believe around 2300 people that all made over a Million dollars, file for Unemployment… UE you max out 1800 /mo. 21k per year… basically equal to a little more than ONE Weeks pay… These Millionaire’s cost over 58 MILLION in UE. One weeks pay for them 21k… is like a years pay for the other 92% of America…

    Anyways back to the Tax exempt Status…. Some of that might be based on all the jobs the industry creates. And keeping franchises in certain States/Cities….

    All businesses get certain tax breaks. So is it really NFL is like a Non Profit? Is it Apples to Apples??

  79. Furthermore, when the league collects $6 million in annual membership dues from each team, the teams can now WRITE OFF THOSE DUES as “charitable donations.” The NFL in turn takes that $192 million and puts it into a stadium fund that gives owners interest-free loans as long as they secure PUBLIC FINANCING for their new or renovated stadiums. That means we’re left with two bills: Not only do taxpayers lose out on federal tax revenue, we pay for new stadiums that generate profits which enrich only the owners.

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