Cantwell, Reid, Johnson Introduce Bill That Would Revoke NFL’s Tax-Exempt Status

Legislation would end non-profit status for leagues that promote the slur used by Washington, D.C.’s team

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) introduced legislation that would revoke a tax-exemption for the National Football League if it continues to promote the current name of its Washington, D.C. franchise.

The legislation would prohibit tax-exempt status for professional sports leagues that promote use of the specific term used by Washington’s football team. Tribal organizations representing more than 2 million Native Americans and more than 300 Tribes have called on the NFL for a name change.

“It is not right that the National Football League continues to denigrate an entire population,” said Majority Leader Reid. “This is personal for me. As Senator from Nevada, I represent 27 tribes and have worked to protect their homelands and their sovereignty. I wish Roger Goodell and the NFL’s leadership team would take a stand. As the past few weeks have illustrated, the problems within the NFL are far and wide. Today we are taking action and I gladly stand with Senator Cantwell in calling for the end of NFL’s not-for-profit status.”

“American taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize a $9 billion league that promotes a dictionary-defined racial slur,” said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. “It’s time to end the special tax breaks for the National Football League.”

“Our tax code should not be doling out tax breaks to organizations that perpetuate the use of racist slurs. In my home state of South Dakota, there are nine treaty tribes that each has its own distinct government, culture, and heritage,” said Johnson, a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.  “Native Americans have long endured historical traumas, and the name of the Washington football team harkens back to a dark time in our nation’s history. I am proud to join this legislative effort to stop subsidizing a league that is profiting from a degrading, hurtful, and racist term.”

Cantwell and Reid have repeatedly called on the Washington team owner to change the name, and in May, led 50 Senators in calling on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to formally endorse removing the name from one of the league’s marquee franchises.

The NFL receives tax exempt status as a not-for-profit 501 (c) (6) “business league” organization. The legislation is narrowly crafted to prohibit tax-exempt status only for professional sports leagues that promote use of the term used by Washington’s football team. That means it would not affect other sports leagues such as the National Hockey League (NHL) and Professional Golfers Association (PGA), which receive the same 501 (c) (6) exemption.

The National Congress of American Indians, the largest organization representing Native Americans passed a resolution in October in support of a name change. A name change has also been endorsed by United South and Eastern Tribes, and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and the Navajo Nation.

Other prominent national organizations in support of a name change include the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, American Association of People with Disabilities, the ACLU, National Organization for Women, and the Anti-Defamation League.