WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell on Tuesday said she plans to introduce a bill to strip the National Football League of its tax-exempt status over its refusal so far to force the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name.
Speaking at a news conference at the Capitol as part of the “Change the Mascot” campaign, Cantwell accused NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of failing to deliver on his promise to do “the right thing” if the name offends even one person. Many, but not all, Native Americans consider the name racist or offensive.
Tribal members from Washington were among those appearing with Cantwell. The Washington Democrat, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has led efforts to force a name change.
“The NFL needs join the rest of America in the 21st century. We can no longer tolerate this attitude towards Native Americans,” Cantwell said. “This is not about team tradition; it is about right and wrong.”
The NFL is the nation’s biggest sports franchise, with estimated annual revenue of $9.5 billion. But unlike the National Basketball League or Major League Baseball, professional football operates as a nonprofit enterprise. That means its profits are funneled back to its 32 teams, each of which Forbes estimates is worth an average of $1.43 billion.
In the next few days, Cantwell said, she “will be dropping legislation to end that tax status.”
Several newspapers, including The Seattle Times, avoid using the Washington team’s name except in reports about the controversy over it.
Cantwell recently chaired the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, relinquishing it earlier this year to take over the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.