WASHINGTON’S FOOTBALL team took it on the chin Sunday. We are referring not to its overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons but rather to California’s decision not to let any public school use the offensive name that Washington’s team uses. This latest rebuke should serve as a lesson to National Football League officials, helping them realize it’s time to end the controversy about the Washington team’s name by insisting it be changed.
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Sunday signed into law a measure prohibiting public schools from using the term “Redskins” as a team name or mascot. Enactment of the California Racial Mascots Act makes California, the nation’s most populous state and home to three National Football League teams, the first to ban use of the term by public schools. The law goes into effect in January 2017 and will require four schools to come up with new names.
Change in tradition can be hard, and sports fans are as devoted to tradition as anyone. But the hundreds of universities and schools that over the years have voluntarily dropped names and mascots disrespectful of Native Americans show it can be done. They are institutions that came to understand that offense can be given even when there is no intent to offend.
Unfortunately, that has yet to sink in for Washington team owner Daniel Snyder or NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the other enablers in the NFL. Even after a federal judge in July upheld the stripping of the team’s federal trademark protection because it is a slur against Native Americans, Mr. Snyder doubled down on his defense of the name and his refusal to even consider a change. “NEVER — you can use caps,” he once famously said about changing the team’s name.
But, as demonstrated by California’s landmark law, the growing number of leaders who have spoken out against the name (including President Obama), the increasing number of those in the media who minimize or avoid using it (including this page) and the frequency with which Mr. Snyder and his team have become the source of national derision (including a memorable “South Park” episode), it is clear the handwriting is on the wall. Team officials, who before too long may be looking for government cooperation in building another stadium, should read that writing and act on it now.