California could be the first US state to bar high schools from using the racially charged term “Redskins” for athletic teams. An assembly bill passed on Monday would require public schools in the state to phase out their use of the term by 2017.
Just four high schools in California, where the country’s largest Native American population resides, continue to use the name Redskins. These schools appear fiercely opposed to the state’s intervention, saying the names don’t offend anyone locally and resisting a nationwide call to stop using the racially offensive term.
“It’s been a proud mascot for their community,” said Amanda Morello, a communications director for Republican assembly member Devon J Mathis, who represents a district including the Tulare union high school, where the school mascot is the Redskins. “They’ve celebrated it, had it in their parades … To them, it is not a racist term. It’s a proud heritage name.” […]
Increasing pressure on owners of the Washington Redskins to change the name has brought the issue to a head in communities across the country. Last year, the Washington DC team had nearly three decades of patents invalidated because the US patent office found the term “disparaging of Native Americans”. As of 2013, at least 28 high schools in 18 states have abandoned the Native American mascots.
The protracted battle to change team names is the result, at least in part, of 50 years of advocacy by the National Conference of American Indians. The group cites the origin of the term as coming from government bounties for Native American scalps in the 1800s, and persisting through years of government policy that marginalized communities.