Updated 2:20 p.m. to reflect that the AICS list of D.C. school mascots is out of date and 3 p.m. with DCPS comment
Nearly a year after the D.C. Council called on the Washington Redskins to ditch its nickname and mascot, calling them “racist and derogatory,” a lawmaker is turning his attention to some lower-profile sports teams.
Council member Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) introduced a measure Tuesday that would amend the District’s Human Rights Act to prohibit the use of any “race-based nickname, logo, mascot or team name” by educational institutions in the city. Schools could win an exemption if a federally registered Native American tribe grants its consent to the use of the name.
One Native American organization, American Indian Cultural Support, has identified seven D.C. public schools with “racial” mascots, including the Anacostia High School “Indians” and three schools using “Warriors.” But at least one of the elementary schools listed has switched its name to a less controversial name, and one school listed as using “Warriors,” Taft Junior High, is now closed. H.D. Woodson High School also uses “Warriors,” but the associated imagery is of an African native warriors, not of American Indians.
In a statement, McDuffie tied his bill to last year’s anti-Redskins resolution. “While I believe we must continue to apply pressure to the change the Washington football team’s name,” he said, “I do not believe we can do it without an air of hypocrisy if we do not address the offensive team names in our own backyard.”
Melissa Salmanowitz, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Public Schools, said the school system is reviewing McDuffie’s bill and “will decide appropriate next steps” thereafter. “Our schools are safe, welcoming, inclusive communities, and we would never want a school mascot to offend or upset anyone,” she said in an e-mail.
The “Human Rights Educational Institutions Fairness Amendment Act of 2014” was co-introduced or co-sponsored by 11 of the council’s 13 members, giving it a high likelihood of success were it to come to a vote. But the short amount of time remaining in the current council period, which ends in December, may mean the bill will have to be reintroduced next year to have a chance of becoming law.