Lawmakers Tackle NFL's Tax-Exempt Status

Several lawmakers are taking aim at the National Football League's tax-exempt status as the organization is embroiled in scandals ranging from domestic violence to child abuse to the use of what some describe as a "racial slur" in one of its team's names.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., announced today that she will introduce legislation that would end the league's tax-exempt status in a move to increase pressure to change the name of the Washington Redskins.

"The NFL needs to join the rest of Americans in the 21st century. We can no longer tolerate this attitude towards Native Americans," Cantwell said at a news conference on Capitol Hill today. "This is not about team tradition. It is about right and wrong."

Other senators have like-minded intentions to target the NFL's tax-exempt status. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., introduced legislation today that would stop the NFL and other pro-sports organization from claiming their tax-exempt status. Booker's bill, titled the "Securing Assistance for Victim Empowerment Act, would direct $100 million by closing the tax loophole to fund domestic violence prevention pgorams.

"This legislation will help ensure that victims of domestic violence have the resources they need to break away from abusers and begin rebuilding their lives," Booker said.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced legislation earlier this year to end the tax-exempt, 501 (c)(6) status of professional sports organizations making annual revenues of over $10 million, including the NFL, National Hockey League and Professional Golfers Association.

Cantwell's announcement came as she joined other members of Congress, Native American leaders, and religious leaders asking NFL leaders to call for the Washington football team to remove the "racial slur" from its name.

"Members of Congress and the millions of constituents that they represent are told every Sunday by the National Football League regime that Native Americans aren't people, but instead they are mascots, cartoons and relics," Brian Cladoosby, president of the National Conference of American Indians, said at the news conference.

The Rev. John R. Deckenback of the United Church of Christ said the NFL has "lost its ethical way" and needs to "find an ethical core for all of its activities."

The "Change the Mascot" campaign sent a letter today to 31 NFL owners, excluding Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, calling on them to "play a constructive role against prejudice and for equality."

"We are writing today to request that you use your position of authority in the NFL to put an end to the league's promotion of a dictionary-defined racial slur as the Washington franchise's name," the campaign wrote in a letter.

The "Change the Mascot" campaign noted that Congress has provided the NFL tax-exempt status and argued that the NFL should not be using taxpayer resources to "promote this slur."