As California Bans Use of Racist Team Name, Republican Presidential Candidates Voice Support for it

Over the weekend, California became the first state to ban the use of a racist team name or mascot, a name that has come under pressure most visibly in the nation’s capital because of the name of the city’s professional football team.

The California Racial Mascots Act, signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Sunday, won the praise of the Change the Mascot campaign. In a joint statement from Jackie Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, and Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative, the campaign praised California “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 said California has “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.”

The California law is thought to affect four public schools in the state currently using the name, and will go into effect on January 1, 2017, so schools have time to phase out the term on materials – like uniforms.

But the team name has been in the news lately for reasons unrelated to California’s historic law. It’s making headlines because two Republican presidential candidates have expressed their support for the Washington football team keeping the name – a team name that is not affected by California’s mascot law.

On a radio program two weeks ago, Jeb Bush said of the D.C. football team name, “I don’t think [they] should change it.”

“But again, I don’t think politicians ought to be having any say about that, to be honest with you,” he said. “I don’t find it offensive. Native American tribes generally don’t find it offensive.

While that statement isn’t true, Donald Trump repeated it a week later. “I know Indians that are extremely proud of that name,” he said. “They think it’s positive.”

The Change the Mascot campaign, unsurprisingly, slammed Trump’s statement.

“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.”

They’re right. And that’s why The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights unanimously passed a resolution in December 2013 calling for D.C.’s football team to change its offensive name.

“This is not someone else’s problem, this is everyone’s problem. Having an offensive slur for the Washington team name teaches young people to celebrate the denigration of people for being who they are,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference. “That has a damaging psychic impact on individuals, as well as on the entire nation. Changing the name is the right thing to do, regardless of how comfortable fans have become with it. And when Mr. Snyder does decide to put the slur away, I think he’ll discover a new market of consumers who recognize the dignity of all people and want to honor that with the sports teams they support.”

Read the full resolution, including statements from Johnson and Halbritter, here.