This article was written by Brian Bull for NPR. Listen/read the story here.
School team nicknames like the Chieftains and Braves may soon be a thing of the past in Wisconsin, where a new law allows the state to ban race-based mascots and logos. If a complaint is upheld, school districts face fines of up to $1,000 a day. A provision in the law says schools with mascots specifically named after a federally recognized tribe could keep it, if they have that tribe’s permission.
It’s been 42 years since the National Congress of American Indians challenged the use of Native American mascots. Today, an estimated 900 high schools and colleges still use Native American names and images for sports teams. And of course, there are the professional teams — the Chicago Blackhawks, Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and Washington Redskins, among others.
For decades, Native American civil rights groups have called on these teams to change their names. They’ve had little success. But Dave Czesniuk, of the Boston-based group Sport in Society, thinks the Wisconsin law may turn out to be a game-changer.
“I think what’s going on in Wisconsin is exciting, and it’s a true sign of real change,” he says. “You know, social responsibility is on the rise, even in the ranks of professional sports and the corporate level.”
Czesniuk says attitudes have changed since the 1970s, when an estimated 3,000 schools and colleges had Indian mascots. He says the key to making the case is teaching team officials and fans how they perpetuate stereotypes and hurt some Native Americans.
Check out the video clip from the documentary, In Whose Honor? above to learn a little more about this debate.
These links are from the documentary’s website:
Links to other mascot resources:
- The American Indian Sports Teams Mascot Page — an excellent information source.
- The National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media web site.
- Perhaps the definitive essay on the subject of Chief Illiniwek by Joe Gone.
- “Logos and Mascots”: an essay by Dennis Banks
Links to other American Indian video resources: