Former NFL players challenge Cleveland’s tax scheme

Court News Ohio and the Columbus Dispatch report that the Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this week from two former NFL players who argue that Cleveland's system of taxing players who do not live in the city violates Ohio law and the U.S. and Ohio constitutions. Hunter Hillenmeyer, former player for the Chicago Bears, argues that the city's method of taxation is unconstitutional, as it determines the amount of taxes to be paid by taking the number of games the visiting team played in the city and dividing it by the total number of games in the season, whereas other municipalities calculate taxes by taking the first number and dividing it by the total number of duty days in a season. The number of duty days in a season is much higher than the number of games played, so Cleveland's taxes end up being much closer to 5% of his income than the 1% he pays elsewhere, according to Hillenmeyer.

Another former NFL player has made similar claims against the city. In addition to echoing many of the claims made by Hillenmeyer, Jeffrey Saturday, a former player for the Indianapolis Colts, is also challenging the city for taxing him for a game that he didn't actually play due to injury. Saturday argues that it is unlawful for the city to tax him for the game that he didn't play and unconstitutional to tax him when he was not physically present in the city.

National Players Associations, including the Major League Baseball Players Association, National Basketball League Players Association, National Football League Players Association and National Hockey League Players Association have filed an amicus brief  in the Hillenmeyer case, supporting the argument of both athletes that a portion of Ohio's tax law is unconstitutional. The associations claim that the law that prohibits cities from taxing all nonresidents who work for 12 or fewer days in the city except for professional athletes and entertainers violates both federal and state equal protection guarantees.

The oral arguments will take place on Wednesday. For more information about the cases see the docket for Hillenmeyer, here and Saturday, here. Court News Ohio has also published detailed oral argument previews for both the Hillenmeyer and Saturday cases.