Lowell Sun: Legislators Hit NFL Tax-Exempt Status

LOWELL -- Massachusetts legislators are supporting a push to crack down on the National Football League, calling for an end to the organization's tax-exempt status after a Washington senator proposed repealing their 501(c)(6) exemption this week.

The bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington comes weeks after a video surfaced allegedly showing Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting the woman who's now his wife.

That incident follows a string of controversies recently surrounding NFL players, including news of a second child-abuse accusation against Vikings star Adrian Peterson.

Yet Cantwell's bill targets the NFL for its use of the Washington team's Redskins name, focusing on a repeal only for professional leagues that promote the name.

The NFL currently receives a tax exemption for its classification as a "business league." Individual NFL teams, however, are not exempt from paying taxes.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey also introduced a bill this week that would use the money from the tax exemptions of the NFL, National Hockey League, Professional Golf Association and other sports leagues to pay for programs to help prevent domestic violence.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., said he has not had the opportunity to look closely at the legislation introduced this week, but from what he has heard he supports it.

"It's certainly true that there have been several very troubling issues surrounding the NFL in recent weeks," he said in a statement. "I know that there has been renewed interest in repealing the league's nonprofit tax status, particularly because of the controversy around the Washington team name. That name is offensive and has no place in 21st-century America."

Michael Hartigan, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, said Tsongas does not support the NFL's tax-exempt status.

"Her office will be taking a look at the legislative proposals currently under consideration in Congress," he said.

Even congressional hopefuls are chiming in to support a change in the tax policy.

Seth Moulton, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Rep. John Tierney's 6th District seat, said he thinks the repeal is a good idea.

"The NFL has shown that it neither holds, nor holds its members, to basic standards of good citizenship and decency," he said. "Tax exemptions are reserved for organizations that serve the common good. Sadly, the NFL has shown that it's not meeting that standard."

But Moulton said it's also important to pursue these issues from a law-enforcement perspective.

"Considering how much money is at stake here, I think that this would be a good first step," he said. "I think it would certainly help the NFL wake up. The number of incidents that have occurred in the past several years shows that they need a wake-up call."


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