The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

California bars public schools from using ‘Redskins’ as team name or mascot

The Washington Redskins logo is seen on the field before the start of a preseason NFL football game in Landover, Md.  (Nick Wass)

California is now the first state in the nation to prohibit public schools from using the name “Redskins” as a team name or mascot.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, announced Sunday that he had signed legislation called the California Racial Mascots Act, which prevents the use of the name starting Jan. 2, 2017, because many Native Americans find the term offensive. It gives schools that use the name — there are four of them in the state — time to phase out its use, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Two Native American leaders, Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata, both leaders of the Change the Mascot advocacy group, issued a statement that called on the National Football League to force the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name. It says:

“This landmark legislation eliminating the R-word in California schools clearly demonstrates that this issue is not going away and that opposition to the Washington team on this issue is only intensifying. The NFL should act immediately to press the team to change the name.”

In July, a federal judge ordered the cancellation of federal trademark registrations owned by the Washington Redskins, owned by Dan Snyder, but the team can still appeal before the ruling takes effect.

The California Racial Mascots Act says in part:

(a) The use of racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team names, mascots or nicknames in California public schools is antithetical to the California school mission of providing an equal education to all.
(b) Certain athletic team names, mascots and nicknames that have been used and remain in use by other teams, including school teams, in other parts of the nation are discriminatory in singling out the Native American community for the derision to which mascots or nicknames are often subjected.
(c) Many individuals and organizations interested and experienced in human relations, including the United States Commission on Civil Rights, have concluded that the use of Native American images and names in school sports is a barrier to equality and understanding, and that all residents of the United States would benefit from the discontinuance of their use.