Some folks in the Merced County town of Gustine and the Calaveras County community of San Andreas are a bit irked because Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning the use of the name “Redskins” for all teams and mascots in California schools by 2017.
They see nothing wrong with the name, and in fact believe it celebrates the tribes that dominated their areas before the arrival of white people. Gustine High School’s Redskins and the Orestimba High Warriors of Newman, just up Highway 33, play football each year for ownership of a 5-foot-tall statue called “The Chief.” Native Americans once lived along Orestimba Creek just west of Newman.
No matter. Many Native Americans consider the statue and the name Redskins racist and demeaning to their heritage.
We’re supposed to have moved past that kind of thing as a society, which Stanford University did in 1972 when a group of students explained to the school’s president why they felt that the Indians name insulted their culture. (Note of coincidence here: One Stanford Indians coach was the legendary Glenn “Pop” Warner. One of his previous jobs? Coaching the legendary Jim Thorpe at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, which never used a cartoon Indian chief in its logo.)
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Stanford replaced its Indian chief logo with the Stanford Tree, and the school’s sports teams are now the Cardinal, referring to the color and not a bird. An image-wrecker? Hardly. Nor will it be in these high schools and their communities.
Those who want to keep the Redskins name can criticize the political correctness of the new law all they want, but it is now the law – signed and sealed by the governor. So do you fight for the right to continue offending those who are offended? Or do you start the process of finding a new name and mascot?
Bill Morones, Gustine’s schools superintendent, said the district will empower the students and community members to pick a new one.
“We’ll try to make this as positive an experience as we can for the students,” Morones said. “It’s their school. The irony is that the school I just came from (Ygnacio Valley) is the Warriors.”
Likewise, Calaveras superintendent Mark Campbell said, “We will make this as informative, inclusive and educational as we can.”
It doesn’t mean he’s thrilled about the state forcing the change.
“From a state government that preaches local control, it is another example of inconsistency,” Campbell wrote to me in an email.
Anticipating the passage of the law, administrators at each school last year began ordering sports and cheerleading uniforms that include the school’s name but not the mascot. Administrators are waiting to see how much money the state will pony up to cover other costs, including replacing the Redskins logos on the gym floors and around their campuses.
With some entrepreneurial spirit, these schools could turn the change-over into a windfall. There is a reason sports organizations frequently change the looks of their jerseys, caps, jackets and everything else bearing their logos – and, periodically, the logos themselves: money.
Franchises change jersey colors and styles all the time. The Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series in 2001 wearing purple, black, copper and teal. Now they wear red and black. Money in the bank.
For decades, the Modesto A’s sold some Modesto-labeled items. Mostly, though, they sold the jerseys of their parent club, the Oakland A’s. Oakland and Major League Baseball controlled the licensing and got most of the profits, with the local club getting a minimal cut. Then, in 2005, Oakland severed ties with Modesto and took its Class A team to a new ballpark in Stockton. Modesto hooked up with the Colorado Rockies but changed its name to the Nuts and began marketing an identity all its own.
Since that time, Nuts jerseys, caps and other apparel have sold nationwide as part of a huge boom in the popularity of unique minor-league team concessions.
The high schools should expect their own booms, though on a dramatically smaller scale. Parents, students and boosters support their teams by buying jerseys, other assorted garb and everything from stadium cushions to knit scarves. Whatever names or mascots they choose will be in demand. Booster clubs could sell it, using the money to support the teams.
If they come up with good team names, unique logos and mascots, and market it well within their towns, the income could make them forget about the Redskins.