Lawmakers Threaten NFL’s Tax-Exempt Status Over ‘Redskins’ Name

“The National Football League is on the wrong side of history,” write two lawmakers.

Customers win a signed football during a raffle during the Xbox One Gaming Tournament at the Microsoft store at Tyson's Corner on November 23, 2013 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.
National Journal
Elahe Izadi
See more stories about...
Elahe Izadi
Feb. 10, 2014, 5:35 a.m.

Some mem­bers of Con­gress have long been un­happy with the name of Wash­ing­ton’s foot­ball team, the Red­skins. But in a new let­ter to NFL Com­mis­sion­er Ro­ger Goodell about the team name, Sen. Maria Can­t­well and Rep. Tom Cole bring up an as­pect of the league that Con­gress may be able to af­fect: its tax-ex­empt status.

“The Na­tion­al Foot­ball League is on the wrong side of his­tory. 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 law­makers write in a let­ter dated Monday. “It is time for the Na­tion­al Foot­ball League to form­ally sup­port and push for a name change for the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball team.”

Can­t­well, a Wash­ing­ton state Demo­crat, chairs the Sen­ate In­di­an Af­fairs Com­mit­tee. Cole, an Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an and only one of two Nat­ive Amer­ic­an mem­bers of Con­gress, sits on the House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee.

The two law­makers write that “Red­skins” is “derog­at­ory slang,” de­term­ined as such by the Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice. “The NFL can no longer ig­nore this and per­petu­ate the use of this name as any­thing but what it is: a ra­cial slur,” they write.

No hear­ings have been sched­uled on the mat­ter.

Now, Goodell has said re­cently the league is “listen­ing” and “be­ing re­spect­ful” to those who op­pose the name. But he also said the team “honored” Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans. And team own­er Dan Snyder has been adam­ant against a name change. In fact, the team is ex­pec­ted to launch today “Com­munity Voices,” to show­case sup­port from Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans for the team name.

In a state­ment, Red­skins spokes­man Tony Wyl­lie shot back at Can­t­well and Cole, say­ing, “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? And giv­en the fact that the name of Ok­lahoma means ‘Red People’ in Choctaw, this re­quest is a little iron­ic.”

The law­makers’ lettter reads:

Dear Com­mis­sion­er Goodell:

We are writ­ing to ex­press our dis­ap­point­ment with the Na­tion­al Foot­ball League’s stance on the name of the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball team. We also wish to re­gister our ob­jec­tions to your pre-Su­per Bowl press con­fer­ence on Janu­ary 31, 2014, at which you de­fen­ded the Wash­ing­ton team name as an “hon­or” to Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans. It is, in fact, an in­sult to Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans. We are call­ing on you and the NFL to take a form­al po­s­i­tion in sup­port of a name change.

You have met with lead­ers of the Na­tion­al Con­gress of Amer­ic­an In­di­ans, an or­gan­iz­a­tion that rep­res­ents more than 250 tribes and mil­lions of Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans. They ag­gress­ively sup­port a name change as they find the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball name to be ra­cially of­fens­ive. (ht­tp://www.ncai.org/re­sources/res­ol­u­tions/com­mend­ing-ef­forts-to-elim­in­ate-ra­cist-ste­reo­types-in-sports-and-call­ing-on-the-u-s-pres­id­ent-and-con­gress-to-com­bat-these-con­tinu­ing-af­fronts-to-nat­ive-peoples).

For you to pre­tend that the name is de­fens­ible based on dec­ade-old pub­lic opin­ion polling flies in the face of our con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tec­ted gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment re­la­tion­ship with tribes.

The Na­tion­al Con­gress of Amer­ic­an In­di­ans rep­res­ents tri­bal gov­ern­ments that ful­fill the gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment re­la­tion­ship with the United States gov­ern­ment. This re­la­tion­ship is pro­tec­ted in our Con­sti­tu­tion. Say­ing the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball team “honored Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans” per­petu­ates a charade that dis­hon­ors nat­ive people and their gov­ern­ments and erodes the repu­ta­tion of the Na­tion­al Foot­ball League. We be­lieve that the fact that this term does not hon­or — but rather dis­par­ages — In­di­an people and tribes is what will and should guide fed­er­al poli­cy­makers.

The ter­min­o­logy used by the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball team has been de­term­ined to be a slur. On Decem­ber 29, 2013, the Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice, the agency charged with de­term­in­ing wheth­er a word is a slur and can be pro­tec­ted in com­merce, de­term­ined that this term is a “derog­at­ory slang” term that refers to and is con­sidered of­fens­ive to Amer­ic­an In­di­ans in a case of a busi­ness ven­ture seek­ing to trade­mark the term.

In 1999, the Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice re­fused to re­gister the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball team’s trade­mark be­cause the agency found the term dis­paraged In­di­an people. Neither the league nor the team should take com­fort be­hind a tech­nic­al­ity that pre­ven­ted the agency’s de­cision from be­ing en­forced. The Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice is soon to act on a new case dir­ectly tied to the team’s trade­mark, brought by sev­er­al young In­di­an people.

The NFL can no longer ig­nore this and per­petu­ate the use of this name as any­thing but what it is: a ra­cial slur. It is clear that you haven’t heard the lead­ing voices of this coun­try — and not just In­di­an Coun­try. Vir­tu­ally every ma­jor civil rights or­gan­iz­a­tion in Amer­ica has spoken out in op­pos­i­tion to this name in­clud­ing the NAACP, the Anti-De­fam­a­tion League, the Rain­bow Co­ali­tion and the League of United Lat­in Amer­ic­an Cit­izens.

The Na­tion­al Foot­ball League is on the wrong side of his­tory. 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. It is time for the Na­tion­al Foot­ball League to form­ally sup­port and push for a name change for the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball team.

Sin­cerely,

Maria Can­t­well Tom Cole

United States Sen­at­or U.S. House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-ex­pec­ted primary battle be­hind her, former Sec­ret­ary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton (D) is no longer go­ing on the air in up­com­ing primary states. “Team Clin­ton hasn’t spent a single cent in … Cali­for­nia, In­di­ana, Ken­tucky, Ore­gon and West Vir­gin­ia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “cam­paign has spent a little more than $1 mil­lion in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone back­er in the Sen­ate, said the can­did­ate should end his pres­id­en­tial cam­paign if he’s los­ing to Hil­lary Clin­ton after the primary sea­son con­cludes in June, break­ing sharply with the can­did­ate who is vow­ing to take his in­sur­gent bid to the party con­ven­tion in Phil­adelphia.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."

Source:
×