It would appear that Congress has outgrown the droll function of attending to the People’s business (like providing checks on presidential power to unilaterally delay laws, or being faithful stewards to the People’s money), and has now seen fit to turn their attention (and near limitless coercive potential) to the eminently urgent matter of sports team names.
Though I struggle in vain to discover the Constitutional provision allowing for such interference, nonetheless, two members of Congress sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday, urging him to kowtow to the benefactors of political correctness and support a name change for the Washington Redskins.
Arguing that it “offends Native Americans and others”, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) argued that the NFL “can no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur.”
Sidebar question, and for the sake of discussion, I ask the reader to answer honestly: before this latest push to excommunicate “Redskins” from the social lexicon, when you heard the name in casual conversation, was the first image to enter your mind the football team, or the Native American who might live down your street?
My sense is that you flashed on the football team, and why not? The only true usage of “Redskins” in the modern era is to identify a sports team, be it the Washington Redskins or the Redskins in Wellpinit, a school team and constituency of Ms. Cantwell in Washington State. Did Ms. Cantwell forward her and Cole’s letter to Wellpinit as well? May as well strong arm school districts too while you’re at it. To channel candidate Obama, when you spread the political correctness around, it’s sterilizing for everybody. That’s what it’s about: never mind thickening your delicate skin, we’ll just scrub the offending language.
However, of greater concern beyond the attempt to ban words deemed by our moral superiors to be verboten is the process by which Her and His Majesty have hinted at using to achieve their ends: the tax code.
In an interview on Sunday, Cantwell said that lawmakers would “definitely” reconsider the tax-exempt status of the NFL–they are a 501 (c)(6) nonprofit trade organization–should they fail to kneel before General Zod:
“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.
It’s for this explicit reason, among others, that religious institutions are tax-exempt as well. If Congress has the power to tax a religion, they have the power to tax them–even out of existence–arbitrarily. While, admittedly, Congress couldn’t tax the multi-billion dollar a year NFL into extinction, the analogy holds. It’s antithetical to the idea of a “free” society to wield the tax code as a weapon to compel compliance with the arbitrary whims of Congress. Whims that, especially in this case, are outside the purview of Congress’ enumerated powers. Policing of team names lies not with Congress, but with those inclined to buy team products. If enough people take their business elsewhere, believe me, owners will get the picture. I love the free market, don’t you?
Speaking of owners, and to their credit, the Washington Redskins released a statement in response to the letter, essentially telling the duo to give themselves a high colonic and take a ten mile hike:
“Surely, with all the issues Congress is supposed to work on such as the economy, jobs, war and health care, the Senator must have more important things to do.”
Too right the Redskins are. Congress has absolutely zero business injecting themselves into the business decisions of a pro football team. Stick to what you’re good at–like profligate spending or cratering the health care system.
If the team is bound to change their name, it hardly requires an act of Congress.