WASHINGTON – On Monday, two lawmakers addressed the controversy over the Washington Redskins’ name. Later Monday night, a lawyer helping to prepare legal challenges against the team had some strong words for the team and owner Dan Snyder regarding their insistence on sticking with a name many find offensive.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., wrote the letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goddell, saying that the league is on “the wrong side of history” and mentions the league’s tax-exempt status.
Earlier Monday, Cantwell told WTOP that she and Cole were “basically calling out the fact that this is unacceptable, for somebody to have a tax break on something that’s supposed to be for education purposes, and yet they won’t even stop using a term that is offensive to a large segment of our population.”
John Banzhaf, professor of public interest law at George Washington University, is working on legal challenges to the team’s name. He says that advocates for a name change are taking three tacks.
Snyder is “undergoing legal proceedings now to take away the trademark,” Banzhaf says; “he is facing a possible FCC decision to restrict the use of the racist term on the airwaves, and now the NFL is facing a possible loss of its tax-exempt status.”
The action against the league’s tax-exempt status is “not a new movement,” Banzhaf says. The NFL makes about $10 billion a year and pays commissioner Roger Goodell $30 million a year, “and they don’t pay a penny in taxes.” Now, he says, the fact that the team uses what Banzhaf repeatedly refers to as “a racist term” in its name only fuels the fire of people who want to make changes when it comes to the NFL and taxes.
“Do you think they’re willing to take even a 1 in 100 chance of paying the usual … tax on $10 billion a year? … I’d be advising them to start doing something about this issue.”
“Eventually,” Banzhaf says of Snyder, “he’s got to break.”
In a statement responding to the original letter from Cantwell and Cole, team spokesman Tony Wyllie says, “With all the important issues Congress has to deal with, such as a war in Afghanistan to deficits to health care, don’t they have more important issues to worry about than a football team’s name?”
Banzhaf calls it “a little bit of a stupid argument.
“If you asked blacks whether the biggest problem facing African-Americans is the use of the n-word, they’d certainly say ‘No it isn’t,’ and give you 10 others.” But that doesn’t make it right to use that word to name a team, Banzhaf says.
Asked whether he thought the league would “tap (Snyder) on the shoulder” and convince him to change the team’s name, Banzhaf says, “I’d rather see them kick him in the ass. But … either one will do.”