Another Attempt to Force the Redskins to Change Their Name

Putting pressure where it hurts to persuade the NFL

S. 2884 Special Rule Relating to Professional Sports Leagues

The Essentials
1. “The Washington Redskins came under attack from a group of Indians,” the Associated Press reported in 1972, after LaDonna Harris, a Comanche and the wife of Oklahoma Democratic Senator Fred Harris, and other Native Americans protested the team’s name. The organization ignored them and has resisted similar pressure since, including a letter last May by 50 Democratic senators to National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to endorse a change.

2. On Sept. 14, Senator Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state who is a former chair of the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee, upped the ante with legislation that would strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status as long as the team keeps its name. An identical bill was introduced in the House on Nov. 12 by Democratic Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s nonvoting member of Congress.

3. The NFL has enjoyed tax-exempt status since 1966. While each of its 32 teams are for-profit companies that pay taxes on combined revenue of almost $10 billion, the league itself owed nothing on $326 million in revenue in 2012, the most recent year for which IRS documents are available. (It spent $44 million of that on Goodell’s pay.) In 2013, Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that closing the loophole for sports leagues would add just $109 million in tax revenue over the next 10 years.

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