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Houska: Congresswoman Norton's Bill Takes Aim at Washington Football Team

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton's bill would prohibit the NFL from being exempt from federal antitrust as a result of the “Redsk*ns” moniker.

Today marks the official kickoff of the National Football League [NFL] regular season. What better time to remind the Washington football team that their “name controversy” isn’t going away?

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton [D-DC] has introduced a bill to prohibit the NFL from being exempt from federal antitrust laws if it continues to allow the Washington team to use the term “Redsk*ns.”

Currently, pro sports leagues enjoy a permanent exemption from federal antitrust laws via the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. The Act was passed in response to a court ruling that found a single entity negotiating on behalf of all teams for broadcasting rights was unlawful.

The NFL enjoys an exemption that translates to a monopoly worth billions of dollars. In recent years, there have been several legislative efforts to repeal the exemption for a variety of reasons, but none have passed.

Norton’s latest bill follows an effort last year to repeal the NFL’s tax-exempt status for its continued use of a racial slur.

Now armed with the July federal court ruling against the Washington team, Norton stated the NFL should “not be benefiting financially from federal antitrust exemptions while they continue to promote a disparaging moniker that has been found by legal authorities to be a racial slur.”

Last year, the NFL voluntarily gave up its tax-exempt status in a move that many believed was tied to mounting congressional pressure.

The Washington team has vowed to continue their fight against Native American opposition -- the appeal of July’s decision is set for December 2016. Meanwhile, the team’s Original American Foundation has experienced numerous setbacks in recent months as tribes have repeatedly rejected funding offers.

Tara Houska. Photo courtesy Josh Daniels.

Tara Houska (Couchiching First Nation) is a tribal rights attorney in Washington, D.C., a founding member of NotYourMascots.org, and an all-around rabble rouser. Follow her: @zhaabowekwe.