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Dem senator would strip NFL’s nonprofit status over ‘Redskins’

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) on Tuesday pushed to revoke the NFL’s tax-exempt status over the Washington Redskins’ refusal to change its name. 

“In the next few days, I will be dropping legislation to end that tax status,” she said at a press conference. 

The Washington Democrat made the announcement in the Capitol Tuesday alongside the “Change the Mascot” campaign, which is led by Native American leaders opposed to the team’s name. 

{mosads}”The NFL needs to join the rest of America in the 21st century,” she said in remarks released by her office. “We can no longer tolerate this attitude towards Native Americans. This is not about team tradition. It is about right and wrong.”

Cantwell has been a major advocate to change the name in the past, spearheading a letter signed by 50 senators earlier this year to pressure the league to force the Redskins to change their name, arguing it is disparaging to Native Americans. 

The push in Congress to force a name change has become increasingly vocal in the past year. In June, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a ruling canceling a number of the team’s trademarks.

A few Republicans in the past have introduced legislation to remove the nonprofit status of professional sports leagues more broadly, which can avoid tax liabilities by qualifying as a trade association or public interest group. 

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced legislation last year to remove the tax-exempt status of any professional sports league that has more than $10 million in yearly revenue. The bill has attracted the support of Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced similar legislation in the House. 

Professional sports leagues have argued their purpose is to promote their sport and teams allowing them to qualify as a trade organization, but Coburn has said they are mostly focused on promoting their brand. He has said his legislation would bring in $109 million in revenue over a decade. 

The National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have both given up their tax-exempt status, but the NFL and a number of other sports leagues continue to take advantage of the status. 

Cantwell’s legislation comes as the NFL hired a top lobbyist and made a number of other hires in order to address separate and mounting criticism of its handling of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was suspended indefinitely last week after video showed him punching his wife unconscious at a casino in February. 


Tags Maria Cantwell NFL tax exempt professional sports Washington Redskins

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