Congressman Mike Honda, left, and Colorado House Representative Joe Salazar have both filed bills that take aim at derogatory Native American mascots.

Two Men, One Cause: Elected Officials in D.C., Denver Take on Native American Mascots

Simon Moya-Smith

Two House Representatives – one at the federal level and one at the state – are both working simultaneously to eradicate offensive Native American mascots.

Democrat Colorado House Representative Joe Salazar introduced a bill on January 29 that would regulate Native American mascots throughout the state. There are an estimated 15 schools in Colorado with an Indian mascot. Two such schools are the La Veta Redskins and the Lamar Savages.

Salazar’s House Bill 1165, should it become law, would require schools with a Native American-inspired mascot and logo to change its name or request approval from a subcommittee to continue using it.

According to the bill, a school will have two years to change its name and logo if it is doesn't receive approval. A school will be fined $25,000 for each month it doesn’t follow the requirement. 

House Bill 1165 will to be heard just one day after the Denver March Pow Wow on March 23 at 1:30 p.m. MST in the state Education Committee at the Colorado State Capitol.

RELATED: Proposed Bill Would Ban Native Mascots in Colorado; Sponsor Gets Hate Mail

Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., a California Democrat filed a bill on Tuesday that would strip the Washington football team of its federal trademarks on the grounds that its name is offensive and should not be permitted.

In a press release, House Representative Mike Honda referred to the name of the Washington football team as a “derogatory slur.”

“It is unbelievable to me that, in the 21st century, a prominent NFL franchise is calling itself by a racial slur,” he said. “Team names should not be offensive to anyone. Allowing trademark protection of this word is akin to the government approving its use. Removing that trademark will send a clear message that this name is not acceptable.”

In June, the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled the name of the Washington football team is “disparaging to Native Americans” and cancelled six of the team’s seven trademarks.

Two months later, team owner Dan Snyder sued the five Native American plaintiffs who won that case against the franchise. In January, the federal government intervened in the case to defend the constitutionality of the Lanham Act, which states that no trademark “may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”

RELATED: Use of the Word 'Redskins' By Announcers Drops; Pundit Predicts Sale of Team in 2015

Both bills come on the heels of some of the largest protests against the team name in NFL history. The Washington team was met with its largest protest ever at a home game on December 28, and in early November, thousands marched and rallied at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in protest of the team name.

The saliency of the issue has even prompted many elected officials and celebrities to chime in on the contentious debate. President Barack Obama said that if he were the owner of the team he’d consider changing the team name.

Snyder said he will “NEVER” change the name.

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bullbear's picture
Submitted by bullbear on
I certainly hope Dan Snyder is feeling the noose starting to tighten. Sadly, he knows that the day is coming when it will take laws to set things right and he defies logic. The NFL is also seeing that the days that it can run willy-nilly over families lives are numbered with the public and government officials constantly looking over its shoulder. Both the public school systems and NFL receive tax support and thereby are accountable to the public. Nobody is above the law. And Civil Rights Act of 1964 tells us that it is illegal to discriminated against someone because of race, color, religion, sex, religion, or national origin. Colorado may very well be laying ground work for other states to follow. It is encouraging that Indian country is starting to actively see its persistence starting to pay off. Now, let's hope that tribal leaders will refrain from accepting gifts and game seats next to Dan Snyder.