Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said Wednesday that Congress should remove the NFL's nonprofit tax status "unless" the multi-billion dollar league pressures Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change his team's name.
"The NFL greed is so widespread that they’ve chosen to operate as a tax-exempt organization. So we want to take that choice away from them unless, and until, they decide not to profit from a name that has now officially been declared a racial slur," Norton, a nonvoting delegate representing the District of Columbia, said during an interview with ABC/ESPN podcast Capital Games.
Norton joined Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who announced Sept. 16 she would be introducing legislation to end the NFL's nonprofit tax status because the league has not yet addressed the Redskins name controversy, the Washington Post reported.
District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton speaks about the "Change the Mascot" campaign during a press conference with Oneida Indian Nation leaders on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16, 2014. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
“The NFL needs to join the rest of Americans in the 21st century,” said Cantwell, who used to chair the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
But it's not only Democrats who think the NFL should pony up taxes to Uncle Sam. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn agrees, although Coburn didn't tie the issue to the Redskins name.
"Why should the very wealthy team owners through their league office not pay taxes, which means all the rest of us pay more taxes?" Coburn said, Yahoo News reported. The question Americans ought to be asking, Coburn said, is "Who cut that deal"?
A 1966 tax law amendment made it legal for sports leagues to claim tax-exempt status. Coburn sought to reverse that by introducing a bill in 2013 that would require any sports league making more than $10 million annually to pay taxes.
The NFL rakes in about $10 billion each year while it spends millions of dollars to lobby Congress. In the past two years alone, it donated more than $1.4 million to congressional political action committees, according to the Washington Post.
But University of New Hampshire law professor Michael McCann, who follows legal issues in sports, said the tax-exemption status doesn't mean much to the NFL. McCann said Congress likely won't require the league to begin paying taxes. He added that while the NFL's central office is considered tax-exempt, the status does not extend to the league's 32 franchise teams. noted that the not-for-profit status is limited to the central league office, not the profitable individual teams, as ABC News reported.
As for the Redskins name, the NFL is between a rock and a hard place: Snyder has for months refused to change the team's name. In May, he even went as far as to say that he would "never" change the team's name.
But Synder's firmly stated position hasn't discouraged advocacy groups like Change the Mascot, which argues that according to the NFL's bylaws, the league can punish an owner who is acting in a way that is "detrimental" to the sport.
“Clearly, Washington team owner Dan Snyder’s continued promotion of this racial slur represents such conduct," the group wrote in a letter to NFL owners, the Post reported.
Signed by Oneida Nation representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians president Brian Cladoosby, the Change the Mascot's letter extended blame beyond Snyder.
“The NFL’s continued promotion of this racial slur is not just about one particular team. The league is promoting this racial slur with the resources of every team, including yours, which makes it a league-wide crisis."
(H/T: Yahoo News)
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