February 10, 2014

Lawmakers threaten NFL's tax exemption

Lawmakers Press N.F.L. on Name Change for Washington Redskins

By Emmarie HuettemanTwo members of Congress plan to send a strongly worded letter to the commissioner of the National Football League on Monday urging him to support changing the name of the Washington Redskins because it offends Native Americans and others, with one lawmaker saying she might reconsider the league’s tax-exempt status if it does not comply.

Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington State and chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, said in an interview on Sunday that lawmakers would “definitely” examine the N.F.L.’s tax-exempt status and other ways to pressure the league.

“You’re getting a tax break for educational purposes, but you’re still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it,” Ms. Cantwell said.

In a copy of the letter released on Sunday, Ms. Cantwell and Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and a member of the Native American Caucus, chided the N.F.L. commissioner, Roger Goodell, for his recent remark that the name of the team, based near Washington, D.C., “honored” Native Americans.

“The N.F.L. can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” they said.
Oneida Indian Nation, Washington Redskins escalate war of words

By Mark Weiner[T]he football team fired back today, releasing a statement and letters of support from almost 200 "self-identified" Native Americans who don't want the team to change its name.

"Over the past few months, we have received hundreds of letters, calls and emails from self-identified Native Americans in support of the name 'Washington Redskins.' Their comments make clear why our team name means so much to them and to so many in the Native American community," the team said in a statement.

"It is essential for Redskins Nation to know what the majority of Native Americans really think--in their own words--and why it is so important that we listen to their voices on this issue," the statement said. "We should not turn our back on these Native Americans. Their voices deserve to be heard. We want Redskins Nation and the sports world to know what many Native Americans really think and why our name is their source of pride."
Oneida Indian Nation, Redskins issue competing Monday morning press releases

By Mike FlorioOn the heels of a new bipartisan letter from members of Congress to Commissioner Roger Goodell urging the league to change the name of the Washington Redskins, Oneida Indian Nation and the Redskins have issued a pair of competing press releases.

“The NFL is a publicly subsidized $9 billion-a-year brand with global reach, and it is using those public resources and that brand to promote a dictionary defined racial slur,” Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter said in response the team’s “Doesn’t Congress have anything better to do?” reaction to the letter. “While the Washington team somehow claims that Congress has better things to do than intervene in a serious issue that involves taxpayer dollars, it is the exact opposite: Congress has a responsibility to the American people to put an end to this kind of taxpayer-subsidized bigotry. We are thrilled to have these congressional leaders from both parties speaking out on behalf of the ‘Change the Mascot’ campaign and urge them to take immediate action to prevent the league from using any more public resources to promote hatred against Native Americans.”
As for the so-called Native voices who support the Redskins:The team contends that, in response to owner Daniel Snyder’s October 2013 letter to fans defending the team name, the organization received more than 7,000 letters and emails of support, with nearly 200 coming from people who identified themselves as Native Americans or family members of Native Americans. The team claims that only seven letters were received from Native Americans who oppose the team name.

It’s an entirely unscientific exercise, oozing with potential bias and lacking any evidence of vetting. It also ignores the organized effort against the name, and it also invites Native Americans and others to flood team headquarters with communications opposing the name.

Most importantly, the team’s latest effort continues to confuse the question whether the name is offensive with the question of whether Native Americans are actually offended. Plenty of people aren’t offended by objectively offensive content.
Comment:  Florio's last point is an important one. It goes to the credibility of the polls the team keeps citing.

These questions:

  • Is the name offensive to Natives?
  • Does the name offend you personally?
  • Should the team change the name?
  • Would you change the name if you could?

  • are all different. I could imagine anyone, including a Native, offering any pattern of "yes" and "no" answers. For instance, "The name doesn't offend me, but if it offends anyone, the team should change it, although I wouldn't change it because I have more important things to do."

    Yet the bogus polls treat these questions as if they're interchangeable. To them, "No, the name doesn't offend me" means "No, the name isn't offensive to anyone." Which in turn means "No, I wouldn't change the name" and "No, the team shouldn't change the name." None of these conclusions is justified by the lack of personal offense.

    This alleged lack of personal offense is itself suspect. Respondents often make unwarranted distinctions between the team name and the same word used as an insult. Somehow, they decide "Redskins" and "redskins" are two different words.

    Really, the polls should ask:

  • Does the name offend you personally?
  • If I called you a "redskin," would it bother you?
  • If I called your parent or child a "redskin," would it bother you?
  • Would you call your Native friends and family members a "redskin"?

  • And a necessary follow-up: "Why not, if you don't consider the name offensive?"

    Needless to say, no poll has asked all these questions. Until they do, we should treat any pro-Redskins Native opinion as suspect at best.

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