California became the first state to ban schools from using the "Redskins" team name or mascot Sunday, a move the National Congress of American Indians said should be a "shining example" for the rest of the country.
The law, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed Sunday morning, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2017. It's believed to affect only four public schools using the mascot, which many Indian groups and activists find offensive, but its impact is significant symbolically — California has the largest enrollment of public school students in the nation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
The state Assembly overwhelmingly approved the California Racial Mascots Act in May, about a month before the Obama administration went on record telling the Washington Redskins that they would have to change their name before they would be allowed to move to a stadium in Washington, D.C., from their current home in suburban Maryland.
In a joint statement with the nonprofit group Change the Mascot, the National Congress of American Indians 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 have 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," it said.
The U.S. Patent Office agreed last year that the nickname is "disparaging of Native Americans" and canceled the Washington pro football team's federal trademark protection.