NFL Might Lose Tax Exempt Status Over Redskins Name

A new bill being introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell is calling for the NFL to lose tax exempt status due to the offensiveness of the Redskins name.
Posted at 8:35 PM, Sep 16, 2014

While many headlines regarding the NFL currently look something like this, criticizing the league and its players over domestic abuse cases, the NFL might soon have a whole new issue on its hands. (Via CNN | Sporting News | NBC Sports

Check out this headline from The Washington Post reading, "Lawmaker to introduce bill to end NFL’s tax-exempt status because of Redskins name"

It's an interesting headline for a lot of reasons. First, it doesn't deal with domestic abuse. Second, why is a corporation that makes an estimated $10 billion annually tax exempt anyway? And lastly, how can a single team affect the tax exempt status of the entire league?

As reported by The Post, Sen. Maria Cantwell, backed by Native American tribal leaders, is pushing the NFL to force Redskins team owner Dan Snyder to change the team's name, calling the franchise "guilty of conduct detrimental" to the sport. 

Critics say "Redskins" is undoubtedly a racial slur against Native Americans. And there's a long-running debate over whether the team's name should be changed. Owner Dan Snyder has stood by it, saying the name's staying put.

The debate has entered the political realm before. In 2013, President Obama mentioned that if he was the was owner of a team and the name offended people, he'd change it. 

Then, in June of this year, the U.S. Patent Office cancelled the Redskins trademark. 

WJLA"The Patent Office called the Washington Redskins name 'disparaging to Native Americans.'" 

But the federal government also grants the NFL a tax exempt status.

The league's been tax exempt since 1944 and is classified as a 501 (c) 6 designation, also known as a "trade organization." Still, the not-for-profit NFL argues it does pay taxes ... kind of. 

This is from a 2013 USA Today article on the topic: "The NFL ... notes that while its league office is tax-exempt, its 32 franchises are not. The league's most recent tax form said that it distributed $4.3 billion to clubs, where such money is subject to tax."

And, for reference, the NHL and PGA Tour are both tax exempt sports governing bodies as well, although both bring in much, much less revenue than the NFL. 

Last year, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn called for an end to tax exemption for the NFL and other leagues. As reported by Bloomberg, he estimated the NHL and NFL could "generate at least $91 million of federal revenue every year." 

And Greg Easterbrook, author of the book "The King of Sports", told this to NPR last year"In general the public subsidizes pro football to the tune of around $1 billion a year." 

Which is a sizable amount even on a federal scale. But is revoking tax exempt status the right way to force a name change for Washington? Maybe not. 

Many media outlets are downplaying the chances of the bill actually doing much of anything. The progressive blog ThinkProgress writes, "It seems unlikely that the bill will become law any time soon" mentioning "Coburn's bill has gone nowhere."

Still, maybe there's a better chance the bill will get enough support to get the Redskins' name changed. Here's what Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said back in June. 

C-SPAN: "Daniel Snyder may be the last person in the world to realize this, but it's just a matter of time until he's forced to do the right thing and change the name."

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker also announced a separate bill Tuesday to scrub the tax exempt status from the NFL, but left the Redskins name out of it. He says he wants to fund domestic violence prevention programs with the money raised.

This video includes images from Getty Images.