Skip to comments.Mascot muddle: Ethnic nicknames can show respect
Posted on 08/23/2002 5:41:35 AM PDT by billorites
ON WEDNESDAY the State Board of Education voted unanimously to call on New Hampshire school districts to stop using American Indians as models for their sports team mascots. The board cannot order the districts to make this change, so its resolution stands as nothing more than a strong suggestion. It is a suggestion local school districts should ignore.
Some American Indian mascots are patently offensive. Redskins is hardly a defensible moniker. The great majority of American Indian mascots, however, are emblems of which Americans of all ethnicities, especially American Indians, should be proud.
The question most often forgotten in this ongoing debate over American Indian mascot names is, Why do schools and sports clubs name themselves after American Indians? With the exception of teams named for their clothing (Red Sox), location (Rockies), or for a colorful creature (Cardinals, Sea Dogs), teams name themselves after people or things they want to emulate. Naming a sports team the Vikings, Raiders, Celtics, Tigers, Steelers, Bruins, Cowboys and Braves is an attempt to lay claim to the spirit of those beings.
We dont see teams named Corporate Accountants, Librarians or Mid-Level Managers because on the field of play, one aspires to warrior-like bravery, fearlessness and resolve. Naming ones team the Apaches is not an insult to Apaches; it is an attempt to identify ones self with the bravery, courage and skill of this honorable tribe. If anyone should be insulted by American Indian mascot names, it is the people whose heritage was determined to be too lame to emulate.
Norwegians dont assume that the Minnesota Vikings team name is an implication by Minnesotans that all Scandinavians are warlike. The Irish dont assume that the Boston Celtics team name is an insult to one of the great historical tribes of Europe. Nor should American Indians assume that the name Braves or Apaches is a way of claiming cultural superiority over American Indians. Just the opposite it is the expression of a desire to be affiliated with some of the many admirable qualities of American Indians. It is a sign of respect, not disregard. A true sign of disrespect would be if no teams were named after dark-skinned people.
Again, though most mascots named after American Indians are respectful, some are not. Those that belittle an entire race should be dropped. But that is a decision to be made through a deliberative process at the individual schools, not through a decree from the State Board of Education. Those mascot names that express respect and admiration should be left alone.
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