Updated 07:17 AM EDT, Sat, Oct 23, 2021

Congress Considering Going After NFL's Tax-Exempt Status Over Washington Redskins Name

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Two United States lawmakers are considering to take a strong look at the National Football League's (NFL) tax-exempt status if the league continues to support the Washington Redskins' use of their name brand and logo.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chairwoman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a member of the Chickasaw Nation, sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday, urging him to support changing the name of the Washington Redskins franchise because it offends Native Americans around the land, while stating that they would look at the league's tax-exempt status as a non-profit trade organization if the commissioner did not reconsider.

"The National Football League is on the wrong side of history," they wrote in their letter to the NFL commissioner. "It is not appropriate for this multibillion-dollar 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization to perpetuate and profit from the continued degradation of tribes and Indian people."

The NFL gained their non-profit tax status in 1966 after the AFL-NFL merger and section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue Code was changed to exempt "business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, or professional football leagues (whether or not administering a pension fund for football players), not organized for profit" from federal taxation. The National Hockey League (NHL), the Professional Golfer Association of America (PGA), and the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) also receive the same tax perk as the NFL. Major League Baseball (MLB) gave up their non-profit status in 2007, partly to prevent from revealing salaries of its top executives.

While the league acknowledges that the 32 individual NFL teams pay their corporate taxes, the league itself - a $9 billion-a-year business that provides commissioner Goodell with a $29,419,000 salary, is provided a tax loophole that allows the NFL to bypass paying federal corporate taxes, costing the government an estimated $10 million in lost revenue annually, and $109 million over ten years, according to Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation.

Sen. Cantwell, fully aware of the NFL's ambition to increase the league's revenue to $25 billion by 2027, hopes to leverage their non-profit tax status into forcing the Washington Redskins to change the team name despite resistance.

"You're getting a tax break for educational purposes, but you're still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it," Sen. Cantwell said to the New York Times.

For his part, Goodell has stayed above the fray, allowing for Washington Redskin owner Daniel Snyder to handle the outrage against the team's usage of the name and logo, addressing the issue during the league's "State of the League" press conference prior to Super Bowl XLVIII.

"I've been spending the last year talking to many of the leaders in the Native American communities. We are trying to make sure we understand the issues," said the NFL commissioner. "Let me remind you: This is the name of a football team, a football team that's had that name for 80 years and has presented the name in a way that it has honored Native Americans."

Snyder refuses to budge on the issue, especially considering his brand is worth $145 million according to Forbes, despite public pressure that the name is a slur to Native Americans. The Oneida Indian Nation, a tribe based in upstate New York, started the ChangeTheMascot.org Web site to push back against the Redskins while journalists such as Sports Illustrated's Peter King and USA Today's Christine Brennan have refused to use the team name in any of their articles or social media platforms.

Snyder notes that the franchise has received letters and emails from many people who identify as Native American who support the team using the Redskin name while pointing out that to a June 2013 Washington Post poll that found two-thirds of Washington-area football fans opposed a shedding the name. The team also points to a national Associated Press poll that found 4 out of 5 Americans were against Snyder changing the Redskin name.

Washington Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie was critical of Sen. Cantwell and Rep. Cole use of their congressional powers to focus on the football franchise as opposed to tending to other more pressing political matters, even taking a jab at Rep. Cole's home state.

"With all the important issues Congress has to deal with, such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to health care, don't they have more important issues to worry about than a football team's name," said Wyllie. "And given the fact that the name of Oklahoma means 'Red People' in Choctaw, this request is a little ironic."

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