LOS ANGELES — Four California high schools will be forced to change mascots after Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation barring public schools from using the Redskins name for sports teams.
It was one of three sports-related bills approved by Brown in the last week. He also signed a measure that bans players and coaches from using smokeless tobacco at professional baseball parks and another that recognizes competitive cheerleading as a high school sport.
The mascot legislation signed Sunday will prevent public schools from using a term that American Indians regard as offensive and goes into effect in 2017.
Only four public schools still use the name, including Tulare Union High south of Fresno. Dr. Sarah Koligian, superintendent of Tulare Joint Union High School District, said officials were “disappointed” by Brown’s decision but will change their team name.
“We will adhere to the law as it is written,” Koligian said in a statement Monday. “Together with our Board of Trustees, school community and our Tulare community we will seek their input to determine our new mascot.”
The Chowchilla Union High School District in the Central Valley will begin seeking public comment on a new mascot — but not happily, Superintendent Ronald V. Seals said.
The district’s lone high school, which has about 1,000 students, has used the Redskins mascot and Indian chief logo since 1928 and there never have been complaints, he said.
“I have Choctaw Indian blood in my veins. I’m not offended by it,” Seals said.
“You don’t pick a mascot that you don’t respect, dignify, love,
American Indian groups have protested the name’s continued use amid their court fight with the NFL’s Washington Redskins. A federal panel ruled last year that the team’s trademark should be
“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,” said Evan Nierman, founder of the group Change The Mascot, which supported the bill. “The NFL should act immediately to press the team to change the name.”
California schools Gustine High in Merced County, Calaveras High in Calaveras County and Chowchilla Union High in Madera County also use the name. Messages seeking comment from school officials were not immediately returned Monday, a federal holiday.
The measure Brown approved Sunday that bars players and coaches from using — or even having — smokeless tobacco on the playing field at ballparks expands on local bans passed by San Francisco and Los Angeles. It wasn’t immediately clear how the statewide ban would be enforced.
Public health officials who backed the proposal cited the prevalence of youths using smokeless tobacco, even while cigarette use drops. They say smokeless products contribute to oral, pancreatic and esophageal cancers as well as other diseases.
Major League Baseball said it supported banning smokeless tobacco when the proposal was introduced earlier this year, but the league didn’t immediately comment on the statewide prohibition. Chewing tobacco, known as dipping, is already prohibited in minor leagues.
The Los Angeles Dodgers issued a statement of support after city officials approved a tobacco ban last month.
The push for the ban comes after the death last June of former San Diego Padres All-Star Tony Gwynn, who believed his oral cancer was linked to longtime use of chewing tobacco.
The governor also approved a bill last week that requires the California Interscholastic Federation to oversee competitive cheerleading as it does other high school sports by 2017-18.
The formal recognition will give cheerleading the respect and safety standards that athletes deserve, said Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego, who introduced the bill. At least eight other states treat competitive cheerleading as a sport, said Gonzalez, a former high school and college cheerleader.
This story has been corrected to show the bills were approved recently, not all on Sunday.
Christopher Weber, The Associated Press