SACRAMENTO (CN) – Legislation banning “Redskins” as public school mascots passed its second hurdle Tuesday, as California moves toward becoming the first state to restrict use of the term.
Finding “Redskins” to be derogatory, the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media advanced AB 30 , which would force the four remaining schools in California to change their mascots’ name. Native Americans and others around the country have called for an end to the term – most notably for the NFL’s Washington franchise, which announcers have stopped using.
“This is part of a national movement to get rid of Native American mascots across the country and it started nearly 50 years ago,” said the bill’s author, Rep. Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville. “Here we are still fighting this fight many decades later.”
Alejo said many schools adopted the name in an era when Native Americans were not even allowed to vote. The bill would require the remaining schools – Calaveras, Chowchilla Union, Tulare Union and Gustine high schools to adopt new names.
Dakhota Brown, a Miwok Indian and student at a rival school that plays Calaveras High School in sporting events, told the board that race-based mascots cause students anxiety, as they know their Native American culture will be mocked when they play Calaveras.
“These mascots create a false sense of who we are and what our traditions consist of. They allow others to mock our culture and misappropriate our regalia, customs and religion,” Brown testified.
The California Racial Mascots Act would force the remaining schools to change their mascots by 2019. Similar legislation was vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003, saying it was up to local communities to decide if the term is offensive.
Throughout the years, several prominent sports teams and colleges have changed their names, including Stanford University in 1972 and the University of Miami Ohio, which changed from the Redskins to RedHawks in 1997.
For years the Washington NFL franchise have been pressured to change their name, but owner Daniel Snyder has refused, claiming the name honors and respects Native Americans. Despite Snyder’s defense of the name, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark, calling the name disparaging to Native Americans.
Alejo’s bill moves next to the full Assembly, if successful to the Senate.
“In retrospect, we will look back at all these schools and communities and say we did the right thing,” Alejo said.
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