California officially banned the use of “Redskins” as a team name or mascot in the state. The California Racial Mascots Act, signed Sunday by Gov. Jerry Brown, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017. Schools currently using the name have until this time to pick a new mascot. California is the first state in the nation to implement a bill of this kind.
The decision only affects four public schools in the state that currently use redskins as a mascot. Rather than dismiss the issue due to how few schools use the mascot, though, the state still saw a need to ensure the term is not affiliated with any team now or in the future.
Change the Mascot, an organization run by the Oneia Indian tribe lobbying for the Washington Redskins to change their name, saw California’s decision as a step in the right direction. The group released a joint statement with the National Congress of American Indians, saying, “We applaud and extend our deepest gratitude to AB-30 author Assemblyman Luis Alejo, Governor Jerry Brown, and California’s lawmakers 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. They have set a shining example for other states across the country, and for the next generation, by demonstrating a commitment to the American ideals of inclusion and mutual respect.”
Not all citizens of the towns that will be affected by the ban were happy. Gustine High School currently uses a redskin mascot, and Gustine Mayor Dennis Brazil wrote on his Facebook that he plans to fight the ban: “Supreme Court here we come!”
But according to the town’s historian, Patricia Snoke, who graduated from Gustine High School in 1949, not everyone agrees with the mayor. “I am not upset that they are no longer the Redskins,” she said. “I believe that is a derogatory term.”
She said that although many people do not publicly agree with her, a town newspaper’s online poll showed that a lot of citizens do in fact feel the same way she does.
“You had a lot of vocal people in Gustine but then you had a majority that thought the name should be changed,” she explained. “The silent majority said no, no, it’s time for a change or they didn’t care.”
The ban comes at a time when use of the term regarding the NFL’s Washington Redskins has been a topic of national debate. Politicians have even weighed in, including Republican Party members Jeb Bush and Donald Trump, and neither of them appear to be on the right side of history with California.
In a SiriusXM interview last month, Bush said, “I don’t think they should change [their name]. … I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.”
“It’s a sport, for crying out loud. It’s a football team. Washington has a huge fan base — I’m missing something here, I guess,” he added.
Trump also appeared to be “missing something” in regards to the issue, saying in a recent New York Times interview, “Honestly, I don’t think they should change the name, unless the owner wanted to. I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name.”
At the time of Bush’s comments, Change the Mascot released a response, saying, “He clearly is missing something. What is even more appalling is the governor’s declaration that because he personally doesn’t find this slur offensive, that makes it acceptable. This should be a very open-and-shut issue in the 2016 campaign: No presidential candidate should be promoting this racial slur against Native Americans.”
The group was disappointed by Trump’s comments as well: “It is hardly surprising that a candidate who labeled Mexican immigrants rapists and calls women ‘pigs’ now says he wants the NFL to continue slurring Native Americans. Donald Trump joins some of the NFL’s ignoble fraternity of billionaires who sit in their office suites and owners boxes happily spending their fortunes denigrating people of color.”
Polls have also shown that not all Americans agree with Bush and Trump. A 2014 survey asked if people would call someone a “redskin” to their face, and 83 percent of respondents said they would not. Another poll found that 67.3 percent of American Indians do find the term offensive, while 12.2 percent said they were neutral and 20.4 percent said they did not find it offensive.