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California Bans 'Redskins' for School Teams but Maintains Confederate Names on Public Spaces

Though California became the first state to prohibit school sports teams from using a term that many Native Americans find racist, it will continue to allow public buildings and parks to use Confederate names.

by Reuters and VICE News
Oct 12 2015, 3:25pm

Photo via EPA

In a move toward political correctness in some areas but not all, California will no longer allow public schools to name their sports teams "Redskins," but parks and buildings will still be permitted to be named after Confederate heroes.

On Sunday, California's Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law ending the use of the Redskins team nickname and mascot, which many Native Americans find offensive, while also vetoing legislation that would prevent municipalities from putting Confederate flags or names on public properties.

Advocates for Native Americans welcomed the decision to ban the term.

"The most populous state in the country has now taken a stand against the use of this insidious slur in its schools," activists from the group Change the Mascot said in a statement on Sunday. California is "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."

California is the first in the nation to outlaw the term statewide, although individual school districts, including ones in Houston and Madison, Wisconsin, have already done so, said Joel Barkin, spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation in New York State, which has backed the Change the Mascot campaign. California's law goes into effect January of 2017.

The most controversial Redskins team is of course Washington, DC's National Football League franchise, which has faced repeated calls by civil rights groups and politicians to change its name. In 2013, the DC city council passed a resolution urging the team to change its name, calling it "racist and derogatory." Republican presidential candidates have weighed in on the debate, with Jeb Bush and Donald Trump both saying they do not see a need to change the name of the team.

Change the Mascot said that it hopes California's "historic step" in banning the term would put further pressure on the NFL, which the group says "continues to defend and promote the slur for its own financial gain."

In another racially sensitive area, Brown vetoed a bill to ban naming public property after Confederate heroes. Such names are considered racist by many people because they honor those who fought for the slave-owning South in the US Civil War.

Brown signed a bill last year outlawing the sale of faux Confederate currency at the State Capitol gift shop, but said the decision to rename public spaces was one that should be left up to local governments and not the state.

"Local governments are laboratories of democracies which, under most circumstances, are quite capable of deciding for themselves which of their buildings and parks should be named, and after whom," Brown said in a statement explaining his veto.