'Capital Games': Behind Congress' 'Attack' on NFL Tax Breaks
A raft of damaging headlines have sparked new efforts on Capitol Hill to hit the NFL where it hurts: in the pocketbook.
New bills were introduced in recent weeks to strip the National Football League of its not-for-profit status, which it holds despite the billions in revenue it helps deliver for teams, and the $44 million annual compensation package enjoyed by the league's commissioner, Roger Goodell.
In the latest episode of the ESPN/ABC podcast "Capital Games," Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton - cosponsor of the House bill that would end that tax break - said the push is yet another way she hopes the NFL will force the Washington football team to change its nickname.
Listen to the full podcast HERE.
"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," said Norton, the Democratic non-voting House member who represents the District of Columbia
"We're talking about the people's money. Whether this gains traction, it's another level of attack on the NFL," Norton added.
While Norton is focused primarily on getting her hometown Washington Redskins to change their name, the issue of the league's tax status is facing renewed scrutiny in the wake of a spate of domestic violence incidents involving players, in addition to recurring issues around substance abuse and head injuries.
The new efforts are being championed primarily by Democrats, including Norton, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey. But they could dovetail with a longstanding push led by conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, to end the special tax treatment enjoyed by the NFL, NHL and PGA, among other sports leagues.
Also on the podcast, National Journal columnist and veteran political analyst Norm Ornstein talked about what he calls the "unhealthy and unholy relationship the NFL has long maintained with Congress." Ornstein believes the time is coming for Congress to end the "crony capitalism" that has allowed the league to get special treatment under the tax code.
Meanwhile, Michael McCann, a University of New Hampshire law professor who writes about sports legal issues for Sports Illustrated, told us that the tax exemption doesn't mean that much to the NFL. He said he doesn't see Congress moving to end it, and noted that the not-for-profit status is limited to the central league office, not the profitable individual teams.
Download the full episode HERE.
"Capital Games" is part of the ESPN Perspectives audio series, focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. It is co-hosted by ESPN's Andy Katz and ABC News' Rick Klein, and it can be downloaded via iTunes or at espn.com/podcenter.