Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signed into law legislation that bans the use of Native American names, symbols, and imagery as mascots, logos, or team names.
The bill, which passed through the Senate by a vote of 40-6 and passed in the House with a vote of 90-8 six days later, is set to take effect next year and considers such uses of Native American names to be “racially derogatory or discriminatory” and “antithetical to the mission of providing an equal education to all.”
“This bill will end the disrespectful use of Native American imagery in our public schools,” Inslee said as he signed the bill.
“Although the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images may be premised on the promotion of unity or school spirit, their use fails to respect the cultural heritage of Native Americans and promote productive relationships between sovereign governments,” the legislation stated.
The bill does, however, come with some exceptions. If a school is located in “Indian country” or is a public school with tribal reservations featured in the district, then those schools are not obligated to follow the new law.
In addition, the legislation calls for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a program to assist with the cost of changing some logos, names, and imagery within the state.
Several prominent sports teams who have had names or logos associating with Native Americans have made similar changes to reflect their current stance on the issue. The Washington Redskins changed their name to the Washington Football team prior to the 2020 season and others such as the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Indians have implemented rules restricting fans from wearing Indian-style headdresses and face paint.