- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Advocates for changing the name of the Washington Redskins have long appealed to the morals of owner Daniel Snyder and the National Football League, but a U.S. senator said Tuesday she is proposing legislation that would instead take aim at their bank accounts.

Sen. Maria Cantwell plans to introduce a bill that would strip the NFL of its tax-exempt status if it continues to allow the use of the name “Redskins.”

“We can no longer tolerate this attitude toward Native Americans,” the Washington state Democrat said during a press conference hosted by the Change the Mascot campaign on Capitol Hill. “It’s not about tradition, it’s about what’s right and wrong.”

Ms. Cantwell’s announcement came as the advocacy group said it had sent letters to 31 NFL team owners — all but Mr. Snyder — urging them to consider disciplinary action under bylaws that allow them to act against an owner who “is guilty of conduct detrimental to the welfare of the League or professional football.”

“In a country and sports fan base that is becoming ever more diverse, Mr. Snyder is jeopardizing the welfare of the league by promoting an epithet against people of color,” the letter states.

The campaign has stepped up its advocacy as the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, are enduring intense scrutiny and criticism for its light punishment of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for a domestic violence incident and a lack of punishment for Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for child abuse charges.

Unrelated to the debate over the Redskins name, Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, earlier this year proposed legislation that would strip the NFL’s league office of its tax-exempt status. The bill was referred to committee and has seen no progress.

Sen. Cory A. Booker, New Jersey Democrat, on Tuesday introduced his own version that would close the tax loophole in order to raise money for domestic violence prevention programs.

The likelihood of success for Ms. Cantwell’s bill is at best uncertain, but it could advance the debate over changing the Redskins‘ name, which has drawn input even from President Obama, Mr. Obama last year said he would think about changing the name if he were the owner.

Mr. Snyder has insisted that the name is used with respect and is a way to honor American Indians and said repeatedly it will never be changed.

Ray Halbritter, a representative for the Oneida Indian Nation, said Tuesday that allowing the name to stay is just another misstep for the NFL.

“We’re pulling back layers of these coverups,” Mr. Halbritter said. “The NFL is out of step, out of touch with the ideals of America.”

Hoping to gain momentum while the league is in a negative spotlight, the campaign brought together members of Congress, American Indian groups, and civil rights and religious groups, all of whom pledged to continue the fight for a new name.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, reiterated her stance that the city backs the Change the Mascot campaign, saying the District is “much too progressive a city to be associated with a title that was officially found to be a racial slur.”

Adding their support for change were members of the United Church of Christ. The Rev. John R. Deckenback, conference minister of the church’s Central Atlantic Conference, and the Rev. Graylan Hagler of Plymouth United Church of Christ said they have encouraged their congregations to stop going to Redskins games and to boycott the purchase of team gear.

Mr. Deckenback said the plan is to encourage the roughly 1 million church members across the country to do the same.

“This [issue] is not a flash in the pan,” he said, adding that the NFL needs to find an ethical approach “for all its activities, including the naming of its teams.”

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