Colorado Senate Bill 116 may see a $25,000 fine per month for any public high school in Colorado that has not yet removed their Native American mascots. It states that:
The presence and use of derogatory American Indian mascots across Colorado creates an unsafe learning environment for American Indian students by having serious negative impacts on those students’ mental health and by promoting bullying of American Indian students.
Further explanations are given in the law about mascots.
“American Indian mascot” means a name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom, or tradition that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name for the school.
In May, the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs meets to determine the fate of schools from a list of others who have not yet complied with the law. Those seven schools have mascots with the names “Savages,” “Indians,” and “Thunderbirds.”
This debate has been ongoing for many decades. PowWows.com, a site “where everyone can experience and explore Native American culture,” defined the two sides of the controversy.
Native mascot supporters often declare their intent to honour Native Americans through positive characteristics such as bravery, fighting spirit, toughness or stoicism. Opposition groups, however, see these traits as part of a reductionist approach that leads to “savage” stereotyping of Native Americans.
Although efforts have been made since the 1940s to change Native American team names, mascots remain popular. Some examples are the Kansas City Chiefs (Kansas City Blackhawks), Atlanta Braves (Atlanta Braves), and Chicago Blackhawks (Chicago Blackhawks). The Washington Redskins are now known as the Washington Commanders and the Cleveland Indians now know as the Cleveland Guardians.
It might appear that the issue is simple: If someone finds a name offensive or considers the mascot racist then they should replace it with something less offensive, such as a naked narwhal.
However, people find it offensive to be offended by almost everything nowadays. (RedState reported a few years ago that a team was considering dropping its “wasp” mascot because some could interpret it as referring to White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Seriously.)
The Washington Post found out in 2016 that the issue is not so simple, when it conducted a poll of Native Americans regarding the moniker “Redskins”:
Across every demographic group, the vast majority of Native Americans say the team’s name does not offend them, including 80 percent who identify as politically liberal, 85 percent of college graduates, 90 percent of those enrolled in a tribe, 90 percent of non-football fans and 91 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 39.
Even nine in ten of the people who heard the most about this controversy claim they don’t care.
These attitudes are even more remarkable because the general public seems to be more against the name than Indians.
A Native American teacher was interviewed by the Post for this poll. The results were:
Many others, including her, embrace native imagery in sports as it gives them some attention in a society that is often not represented. These depictions are not bothersome to only 8 percent of the people canvassed.
This does not mean all Native Americans love mascots. In fact, there are many voices that say they’re demeaning and discriminatory. Von wernative.org
I remember being 13 and feeling embarrassed when the crowd started doing ‘war calls’ or cutting the air with their hands as ‘tomahawks’. I didn’t know what this meant at the time, but I knew I wanted to crawl up inside myself and become smaller. Although I didn’t want to let it be known, I felt that everyone was aware of my Native heritage and was watching our reactions.
It’s a complicated issue, and teams like the Kansas City Chiefs are Atlanta Braves are likely to face increasing scrutiny in the future.
This raises the question: Should it? The governmentAre you able to force such change or impose harsh penalties? How about the First Amendment
Congress cannot pass laws that restrict the freedom of religious expression or establish religion. The restriction of freedom speechThe freedom of expression or press, the rights of people to peacefully assemble and petition government to address grievances.
The Washington Redskins didn’t change their name because of a government law–they dropped it because they faced pressure from Native American organizations and many of their own sponsors.
People can take action if they are offended at a team’s name. They have the right to stop purchasing tickets. They can stop buying tickets. There is enoughThe team is under pressure from many people. In the end, they will have to comply with market forces and satisfy their customers. It’s okay if that means they have to change their mascot.
But it would seem excessive for the state to fin its schools for failing to follow the rules.