California school fighting bill banning use of Redskins as mascot

Everyone from President Barack Obama to Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has weighed in on whether the Washington Redskins should change their name, and here’s a shocker: They don’t agree.

Such is the case in California, where one high school is fighting the state’s pending legislation to outlaw the mascot entirely. Tulare (Calif.) Union High School superintendent Sarah Koligian sent a memo to Gov. Jerry Brown citing concerns about the expected costs incurred by her district in changing the school’s branding along with a letter of support from the Tule River Tribal Council for the school’s use of the “Redskins” mascot. She also took a group of Tulare Union students to Sacramento to address the state’s senate committee.

“We were all disappointed in how we were received, as far as talking about our community support of Assembly Bill 30,” Koligian told The Fresno Bee. “They continually wanted to talk about how it’s perceived at the national level, and we wanted to let them know at the community level in Tulare we invite them to see how it’s treated and respected.”

Despite her efforts, the bill passed California’s assembly and senate by a combined vote of 85-20. Should Brown sign the bill into law by Oct. 11, schools using “Redskins” as a mascot will be required to change their nicknames by 2017. Koligian estimated the cost of those changes at roughly $1 million.

For their part, the tribal council’s letter cited the school’s “pride” in the mascot since 1924.

The Tule River Tribal Council feels that the history surrounding the name ‘Redskin’ is negative, however, it is time to mend these feelings and move on. Although we never forget what has happened in the past, we do not wish to dwell on it either.

If I’m reading that correctly, local tribe members acknowledge the negative connotations surrounding the term and “do not wish to dwell on it,” but they “support the school district’s use of its mascot.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement, if you ask me. Likewise, financial concerns aren’t really a case for keeping a nickname rooted in racism — especially when the bill allows for alterations to school uniforms and facilities bearing the mascot to be made over time, according to The Fresno Bee. In fact, Tulare Union athletic director Diana Nalbandian-Hatton told the paper she has already begun ordering uniforms bearing the name “Tulare” rather than “Redskins” in anticipation of the bill’s passing.

Tulare Union is one of four California high schools and 59 nationwide to still use the mascot, although those numbers seem to dwindle each year. For those who oppose something as simple as changing a nickname for whatever reason, I highly recommend Baxter Holmes’ heavily researched 2014 article for Esquire entitled: “A ‘Redskin’ is the scalped head of a Native American, sold, like a pelt, for cash.”

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