California Bans Sports Teams from Using the R-word

By Kenrya Rankin Oct 13, 2015

Just in time for its statewide celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, California governor Jerry Brown signed the California Racial Mascots Act (also known as AB-30), which bans public schools from using the offensive R-word for school or athletic team names, nicknames and mascots. It will go into effect on January 1, 2017 and will require impacted schools to pick a new name and phrase in new uniforms and signage and immediately dropping the slur from things like yearbooks and school newspapers. NBC News reports that there are currently four schools in the state that use the R-word.

The legislation says:

The use of racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames in California public schools is antithetical to the California school mission of providing an equal education to all.

Certain athletic team names, mascots, and nicknames that have been used and remain in use by other teams, including school teams, in other parts of the nation are discriminatory in singling out the Native American community for the derision to which mascots or nicknames are often subjected.

Many individuals and organizations interested and experienced in human relations, including the United States Commission on Civil Rights, have concluded that the use of Native American images and names in school sports is a barrier to equality and understanding, and that all residents of the United States would benefit from the discontinuance of their use.

No individual or school has a cognizable interest in retaining a racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team name, mascot, or nickname.

“As the state with the largest Native American population, I am proud to have authored this legislation and applaud Governor Brown for taking a stand against racial slurs used by our public schools,” Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D), who introduced the bill back in December, said in a statement. “This bill is about respect. Respect for every culture and every person, and Native Americans should not be left out.” 

In a joint statement, National Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata and Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter expressed their support of the law and their hope that it will spark change around the nation:

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. 

Their historic step to build a better future stands in stark contrast to the dogged inaction of Washington’s NFL team, which in the face of all the evidence that this term degrades and offends Native Americans, continues to defend and promote the slur for its own financial gain. 

The most populous state in the country has now taken a stand against the use of this insidious slur in its schools, and Change the Mascot expects more states to follow. This landmark legislation eliminating the R-word in California schools clearly demonstrates that this issue is not going away, and that opposition to the Washington team on this issue is only intensifying. The NFL should act immediately to press the team to change the name. 

(H/t ThinkProgress)