California Bans Public Schools From Using ‘Redskins’ For Teams and Mascots

By Denisa R. Superville — October 12, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print


California’s public schools will not be able to use “Redskins” as team names or mascots, according to a new law Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Sunday.

The law, barring the use of the term deemed offensive by many Native Americans, goes into effect on Jan. 1 next year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

In signing the law, Brown makes California the first state to ban public schools from using “Redskin.”

In recent years, pressure has mounted on public—and private—institutions to refrain from using “Redskins.” The most famous of these controversies is the ongoing battle with the Washington Redskins football team, which has pushed back against years-long criticism and advocacy to change its name.

Four California high schools currently use Redskins, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The paper also reported that when the law was first proposed earlier this year, it got mixed reactions locally. However, those in favor of the ban pointed to California’s efforts as a step in the right direction and suggested that the Washington Redskins follow suit.

“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,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata, who lead an advocacy initiative called Change the Mascot, said in a statement. “The NFL should act immediately to press the team to change the name,” the Los Angeles Times quoted them as saying.

While the new law prohibits public schools from using “Redskins” in the names of teams and mascots, Brown vetoed another measure that sought to ban public properties from being named after confederate officials.

Brown said that while such actions were “long overdue” the decision on naming public buildings was better left to local officials, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Local governments are laboratories of democracy, which, under most circumstances, are quite capable of deciding for themselves which of their buildings and parks should be named, and after whom,” Brown wrote in his veto message, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Since nine black congregants were murdered during a prayer-meeting in Charleston, N.C., in June, many have sought to remove confederate flags and symbols from public buildings. (The shooter, Dylann Roof, was photographed with confederate battle flags.) In the aftermath, the state of South Carolina removed the battle flag from the state capitol grounds.

Schools have also been grappling with how best to address calls to change the names of schools named after confederate officials and other confederate symbols. Houston Public Schools, for example, planned to rename six schools named after confederate leaders or loyalists.

But those efforts have been met with opposition in some communities, as Education Week’s Bryan Toropek reported in September.

Photo Caption 1: Tulare Union High School’s Ashley Alcantar wears a mascot T-shirt and makes a “U” sign after scoring the correct answer in a quiz in Porterville, Calif., last February. Four California schools will be forced to change mascots after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation barring public schools from using the Redskins name for sports teams.
--Chieko Hara/The Porterville Recorder/AP-File

--Michael Shroyer/USA Today Sports

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.