Just in Time for Indigenous Peoples Day, California Bans ‘Redskins’ Name for Sports Teams

AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Just in time for Indigenous Peoples Day, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill prohibiting the use of the Redskins nickname for teams affiliated with California public schools.

“Beginning January 1, 2017,” California’s “Racial Mascots Act” decrees, “all public schools are prohibited from using the term Redskins for school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames.”

While the legislation claims that “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,” the Redskins (some racial mascots are more equal than others?) remain the lone moniker singled out by name in the bill. Maxpreps lists more than three dozen high schools that call themselves “Vikings,” one school that calls itself the “Fighting Irish,” and two that go by “Padres.”

Four Golden State high schools, according to the Los Angeles Times, use “Redskins” as a nickname. Maxpreps.com lists Gustine, Chowchilla, and Calaveras as high schools bearing the moniker. The legislation permits the schools to continue for a time to use logos and uniforms bearing the “Redskins” markings provided they purchase them before January 1, 2017 and meet a number of other demands, including agree to change the nickname and remove it from marquees, programs, yearbooks, and other prominent places.

The state law follows the U.S. Patent and Trade Office cancelling several Washington Redskins trademarks, the FCC investigating use of the name on radio stations owned by the team, and the Obama Administration refusing to allow the team to acquire federal lands to build a new stadium in the District of Columbia.

“We’ll never change the name,” Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, told USA Today in 2013. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.” Public schools in California depending on tax dollars cannot afford such defiance.

“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,” California’s new law reasons. “No individual or school has a cognizable interest in retaining a racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team name, mascot, or nickname.”