Native American Mascot Paper

Topics: Native American mascot controversy, Native Americans in the United States, Mascot Pages: 11 (2898 words) Published: March 2, 2015
Matt Miller12/6/12
Topic Research PaperSPM 373

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but Names Will Never Hurt Me (Unless I am Native American)
Arguments can be made that Native Americans have been discriminated against since Christopher Columbus navigated into the New World in 1492, and that it has lasted in society and sports up to this day. One very controversial issue in sports has been the use of Native American nicknames and mascots among schools and professional sports teams. Since the 1930’s and 1950’s there has been roughly 2700 schools, and five professional sports teams that have used Native American nicknames, mascots, and logos (Wright, 2007). However, since the 1970’s, around 600 schools have either changed their names or discontinued using Native American mascots (Dennie, 2005). Some of these changes have come voluntarily by schools in order to be more politically correct, while others have changed as a result of court rulings, possible NCAA sanctions, or government legislature. Nevertheless, there are some schools and teams that completely refuse to change their traditions. No matter what level of sport, there are both arguments for and against the use of Native American names and mascots. Support for using Native American Mascots

Proponents of Native American mascots have argued that using Native American names and mascots is not to be harmful at all. They claim that schools and owners of teams are showing respect by honoring Native Americans through the names. These people want to highlight the courage and integrity of the Native American people (Kraatz, n.d.). For example, Karl Swanson, former vice president of public relations for the Washington Redskins, argued that the term “redskins” symbolized the greatness and strength of a grand people (Emert, 2003).

The use of a non-fictional person provides for more of a personal touch for teams. This personalization for teams, if eliminated, would destroy the culture of a school or fan-base (Cummings, 2008). Teams would not intentionally be named after Native Americans if people would hold them in contempt, but rather be used to associate Americans with the spirituality of Native American heritage, while providing widespread coverage of this culture (Wright, 2007). In terms of financial means, proponents have argued that names have been in place for so long with very little successful appeal, so if a change were to occur then it would destroy merchandise sales for the school or team. For many institutions and organizations there would be loss of millions of dollars in trademark changeover or cancellation on merchandise and apparel, while current merchandise would become obsolete (Emert, 2003). Regardless of the financial implications, the proponents highly stress the aforementioned intangible characteristics about Native Americans. Opposition for using Native American Mascots

Activists and opponents of Native American mascot use argue the complete opposite in terms of their portrayal in sports. The image of Native Americans has said to be mascotized, which is to attach depictions of a group to commercialize a product in which the depicted group has been disrespected or portrayed in an inappropriate stereotypical manner (Kraatz, n.d.). This sense of mascotizing tends to reduce a person to a caricature, which Native Americans claim to be disparaging due to lack of knowledge about Native American culture (Fears, 2005). One example is the Cleveland Indians logo of “Chief Wahoo,” with a wide grin considered dehumanizing since it does not accurately portray an Indian (Wright, 2007).

Another aspect considered offensive is the actual nickname of the team. Teams such as the Washington Redskins and the North Dakota Fighting Sioux have degrading names according to opposing Native Americans. Schools and professional teams have also used rituals, dances, and traditions that deeply offend Native American heritage...

References: Cafcas v. The University of Illinois, 368 Ill. App. 3d 321 (2006).
Cummings, A. (2008). Progress Realized? The Continuing American Indian Quandary.
Marquette Sports Law Review, 18 (309), 309-335.
Cummings, A., Harper, Seth. (2009). Wide right: Why the NCAA’s policy on the American
Indian mascot issue misses the mark
Dennie, C. (2005). Native American mascots and team names: Throw away the key; the
Lanhman Act is locked for future trademark challenges
Emert, P. (2003, Winter). Native American mascots: Racial slur or cherished tradition.
Respect: A Newsletter About Law and Diversity, 2 (2), 1-8.
Fears, D. (2005, August 14). Indian mascots: Matter of pride or prejudice. Washington Post.
Retrieved from
Rhode, J. (1994). The mascot name change controversy: A lesson in hypersensitivity.
Marquette Sports Law Review, 5 (1), 141-160.
Trainor, D. (1995). Native American mascots, schools, and the Title VI hostile environment.
University of Illinois Law Review, 1 (971), 971-1001.
Wright, W. (2007). Not in whose name?: Evidentiary issues in legal challenges to Native
American team names and mascots
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