California becomes first state to ban schools from using “Redskins” as team name

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In a historic move, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB30 which prohibits public schools from using the term “Redskins” as a school or athletic team name, mascot, or nickname.

Efforts to eliminate the use of the derogatory name in California have been going on since 2004. At the time, California’s legislature passed a resolution to ban the name; however, then Governor Arnold Schwarzanegger vetoed the bill.

“California has the largest number of Native Americans in the country, it’s time we as a state take a stand against racial slurs used by our public schools,” said Assemblyman Luis Alejo who introduced the bill December 2014. “This is part of a national movement and now is the time for us here in California to end the use of this derogatory term in our public schools.”

In a joint statement, Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and Change the Mascot campaign leader and National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata praised the state of California “for standing on the right side of history by bringing an end to the use of the demeaning and damaging R-word slur in the state’s schools.”

Support for eliminating the nickname has garnered support in recent years mostly due to the national campaign targeted towards the Redskins mascot of Washington DC’s NFL team. Redskins President Bruce Allen stated the team will not consider changing its name, while team owner Daniel Snyder stated that he will “never” change the name.

Despite the NFL franchise’s continued justification for keeping the name, socially, more Americans are finding the name to be unacceptable.

Lancaster Central High School in upstate New York decided to change its Redskins nickname earlier this year after Akron High School’s undefeated boy’s lacrosse team, and subsequently two other school districts, refused to play Lancaster as a sign of protest against Lancaster’s mascot.

During a special meeting in March, the Board of Education of the Lancaster Central School District recognized the nickname “as a symbol of ethnic stereotyping” and passed a resolution to immediately retire the Redskins team name.

Since 2013, eight high schools, ranging from New York to Washington, to Texas, have eliminated the Redskins nickname. AB30 will add four California high schools to the list.

Though there is still a long journey ahead for the Change the Name campaign, supporters are optimistic that California’s success will help inspire change.

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