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Are Native American names in sports offensive?
- Updated: June 11, 2013
Editor’s Note: This is a clip from Friday night’s SportzEdge show, which will air at 11:15 p.m. on WTNH channel 8.
Imagine being a Native American.
Imagine knowing that your ancestors were proud, brave men and women who ended up losing their land, tradition and history through no fault of their own.
Imagine being told in grade school that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America, and that the “Indians” who lived there were powerless against the Europeans’ advanced technology, even though it was the smallpox plague that killed most of them. You learned about the Trail of Tears, reservations, and the affect that the past still has on Native Americans today.
Now imagine seeing this logo.
And this one.
And this one.
What would you think about it?
Would you be OK with droves of fans filling stadiums all year long, displaying these depictions of your people as mascots? Would you be cool with Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland Indians mascot whose cartoonish look is either charming or offensive, depending on your viewpoint?
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell believes that the Redskins name is “positive.”
“The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Congress. “For the team’s millions of fans and customers, who represent one of America’s most ethnically and geographically diverse fan bases, the name is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”
In 2005, the NCAA decided that schools who use Native American nicknames and imagery would no longer be allowed to host postseason tournaments. Nicknames or mascots deemed “hostile or abusive” could not be shown on clothing or uniforms during NCAA-sponsored tournaments beginning in that year, unless the school received expressed, written permission from a local tribe to use that name.
Several schools decided to change their nicknames as a result, and the University of Illinois and the University of North Dakota both stopped using Native American imagery.
Quinnipiac University changed its nickname from “Braves” to “Bobcats” in 2001.
Florida State University received permission to continue to use its nickname and logo from the Seminole tribe in Florida, and maintains a close relationship with the tribe.
Our Sports View panel delves into the topic on Friday’s SportzEdge show, which airs at 11:15 p.m on WTNH channel 8. We want to hear from you! Post your comments below, and vote in our poll.