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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spin Control

Cantwell to NFL: Give up ‘Skins or tax break

The NFL would lose its not-for-profit status, and millions of dollars, if the Washington Redskins don't change their names under a bill being introduced soon by Sen. Maria Cantwell.

The Washington state Democrat joined the National Congress of American Indians in calling for the name change. But if it doesn't happen,  Cantwell said, she's prepared to hit the league where it would  hurt most -- in the wallet.

The NFL currently is registered as a 501 c (6) not for profit organization. A bill she expects to introduce by the end of the month would deny that status to any professional sports league that has a team named "Redskins" . . . 


A spokesman for Cantwell said some estimates put the cost to the NFL of losing not-for-profit status at as much as $110 million over 10 years.

Cantwell's bill would be the second that targets the NFL's not-for-profit status. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., previously introduced legislation that would eliminate it for the professional football league because it makes too much money, about $183 million in gross receipts for 2010. But Coburn's Properly Reducing Overexemptions for Sports Act also targets the 501 (c) (6) status for the NHL, PGA Tour and LPGA because they, too, had gross receipts ranging from $77 million to $1.4 billion that year.

Cantwell's would make keeping the status contingent on removing the name Redskins.

The NHL's Chicago Blackhawks would not have to change its name to keep not-for profit tax status, Cantwell spokesman Jared Leopold said. Major League Baseball teams like the Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves would not be affected because the MLB is not a 501 (c) (6) operation.

It also doesn’t affect other teams that use the name, such as the Wellpinit High School teams. But Leopold said Cantwell “is proud of the decision Port Townsend High School made recently to change its name. She hopes Wellpinit School District will follow their lead and change its nickname.”

Last year the Port Townsend School Board decided to drop Redskins, which had been the high school team’s name for 88 years, and this spring the school adopted a new name, the Redhawks. 

Cantwell, former chairwoman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is a member of the Finance Committee which would hold a hearing on the bill after it is introduced. She took part in a Change the Mascot event today that was part of the NCAI's Tribal Unity Impact Days at the Capitol.

“The NFL needs to join the rest of America in the 21st Century,”she said. “We can no longer tolerate this attitude towards Native Americans.” 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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