I have already written my other article about the NFL’s Washington football franchise. Here though we will give an honest appraisal of other professional sports teams in the NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA, and NCAA teams, taking into account that although we are in a very diverse country, our sports teams seem to predominately prefer to nearly exclusively use Indigenous Americans as mascots for sports teams. We have to ask if these, or some of these mascots are racist or racially insensitive, even if not intended? I am not a tribally enrolled member of a federally recognized Native American tribe, but as a human being I will do my best to make the case for change.
While we do this we have to look at sports fans in general, as well as look at some of the professional and collegiate sports world’s most well known teams with Native themed mascots.
AVERAGE SPORTS FANS
On the one hand it is easy to say all sports fans are just having fun and not intending to harm anyone. I want to believe that is the case with at least 85 % of sports fans or more, even those who root for teams with Native American mascots. I believe the majority of fans on some level like First Nations people. Here are a few photos of sports fans dressed up for games rooting for teams that are not Native American mascots and in various sports.
Clearly fans of all kinds enjoy dressing up in the name of fun for their chosen athletic event. Certainly above we have baseball, college football, and USA Soccer fans decked out in various ways. This is something that must be taken into account as we we move on in this debate.
Then again that does not truly diffuse the concern which states that at least some of these sports teams mascots can be construed as racist or racially insensitive because of stereotypes and demeaning mocking of culture, or culture appropriation as some feel it is. No one wants either their culture or a culture which they are descended from to be depicted in such a way as to feel like it is being made fun of and looked down on. Sure there are some teams that have mascots of other cultural backgrounds, but are they really depicted on the same level?
Spartans, Trojans etc. these are also extinct cultures and I doubt you want to equate actual living groups with extinct groups. Some may say what about the Nebraska Cornhuskers? To that I reply farming is a profession that around the world has employed every ethnicity, religion, and gender, try again. Stop bringing up Notre Dame too, sorry to inform you, Leprechauns are not real or we’d all have a pot of gold.
Before we go further I want you to see a few images and I am pretty sure they will make you feel uncomfortable as they certainly make me feel uncomfortable.
Notice the cheesy cartoon of the “white guy” with a dollar sign, suggesting white people are only about money and materials. Now let’s be honest White America is better equipped to handle it with the endless galore of positive imagery historically and presently, but what if things weren’t so rosy and the most common image of Euro-Americans were stereotypical things like this? I know it’s hard to imagine for most readers. And some people may say yeah bring it on, no big deal! I’m just warming up.
That slate of imagery where other ethnic and religious minorities are included, and ones with some historical pain and aggravation, which might create a bridge to get readers to see why some Native Americans find these teams offensive. I mean we all know Italian, Asian, African, and Hispanic etc. are not racially demeaning terms. Yet, would any of those groups feel comfortable or honored with those mascots? We all know darn well Italian-Americans are tired of the stereotype and assumption that all of them are part of the mafia. Would it be no big deal if a pro stadium was filled with fans dressed as a caricature of “Vito”, and chanting and waving a Styrofoam machine gun?
What if a traditionally African-American university or inner city high school decided to “honor”Southern White Americans, and called their team the Bible Thumpers, White Prides, Tobacco Chewers, Rednecks, Hillbillies, or Gun Totters? I might have even found the perfect logo, all it needs is a cross, a rebel flag patch on the hat, and then fans need to do get some light haired wigs in mullet style, wear some white face faint, get fake dental wear complete with MISSING teeth, ’cause it has to be authentic ya’ know. I wonder what kind of demeaning stereotypical chants could be done? To be truly authentic it has to butcher the English language, because it must sound brainless and backward. Yee-hah! A’int y’all feelin’ the sweet lovin’ now?
Are we getting the big picture now?
Would you the reader regardless of your heritage think that is socially acceptable by most people, or yourself? So, I think that shows these teams and their names are not the beginning and ending of the debate. Images can still be in poor taste. Okay, so I admit I am a bit of a sensitive person on behalf of all people. I consider that a good thing. I want every person to feel comfortable and excited when they go to sports contests. In addition, I must note the San Francisco team above does have an expression considered offensive to Chinese-Americans.
YOU AS A FAN
Even if you have a been an un-intending fan for any of these teams, you can choose to seek change for the greater good and get your fan amnesty now or next week when it sinks in and you realize I am right. You are actually a victim of society not properly educating you about Indigenous people and the obvious failings of our not so liberal, liberal media who could care less about Indigenous people.
In cases where I believe there needs to be tweaking or changing I will provide possible suggestions. Now, let’s take a look first at what Native American activists have called the big FOUR: Washington R-word football team, Kansas City Chiefs, both of the NFL, and the Cleveland Indians, and Atlanta Braves, both of the MLB.
- For the Washington team, you can catch my article exclusively on that team which clearly shows it is by far the MOST egregious offender and there can be no argument it needs changing. See the link here. NFL Rename the Washington Redskins
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
First the logo is a simple arrowhead and is not used as a specific point of issue with Native activists that I am aware of. As for the word Chief by itself, used in the proper context according to Native activists there is nothing wrong with it, but at times the word has been used in a demeaning context meant to offend Native people and this team and Kansas City’s sports fans play a role in promoting negative dehumanizing stereotypes and mocking the culture, where many Kansas City fans dress up in their stereotyped belief of Native American cultures, with face paint and wearing fake feathers (let me clarify fake feather disrespectfulness where chicken feathers get used in these cheap rip-offs, and the real headdresses were eagle feathers and they were properly EARNED, you couldn’t just wake up in the village one day and say gee my buddy in the lodge next door looks so cool in a headdress and after he started wearing one, dude became the coolest guy in the village so I’m following the trend, it didn’t work that way. There is spiritual, personal, and cultural significance to what is worn that I don’t have time to explain further) etc. I hope now you can see how that bothers First Nations people. Also, many, many tribes didn’t have that as part of their culture EITHER.
The quick solution would be to tell fans you won’t be allowed entry into the stadium if dressed in such a mocking way [been done before the Chicago Blackhawks set this policy ages ago, upon actually listening to the local Chicago Native American activists]. Doing away with that would be huge. And going the more generic route, and maybe make a new red and yellow video game looking character who is a fictional culture as your Chief. Sort of like the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who also ages ago actually Listened to Native American activists, and it has turned out fine for them just like Chicago have recently claimed Championships. I guess when you do some good, you can receive Karmic rewards.
Or honor firefighters, you can keep the same name and color scheme, maybe add a little bit of black, which would look SO COOL, then swap the arrowhead for a firefighter logo and ba-boom baby, everyone could be happy. No one has bothered to honor the profession of our fire fighting heroes who save us from burning buildings, save our homes, and save our forests etc. Why can’t we honor those women and men? Yes, actually include women in the honoring. Our mascots don’t have to be all male oriented. You will not find a bigger sports fan than my paternal grandmother.
Now Native activists have said there is nothing wrong with the word brave, BUT when you add in the rest of that filth then there is major offense taken. I love Atlanta and Georgia, a region in which I call home, but I am keeping it real. Seriously, they contend for the title of second worst, and it is the tasteless mocking of Native music by using fake Hollywood music and chanting that ridiculous oh-oh-oooh crap, and tomahawk chop garbage that does bring up stereotypes and the painful subject of scalping and if you have read my Washington article, then you know already scalping was an introduced concept from Colonial powers, where Native people were usually the victim. Remember countless Native people had their bodies carved and scalped, so this isn’t something to make a mockery of. Sadly the majority of these people in the stands have no idea. Here is a video below, courtesy of Natstown. Oddly, we see a diverse crowd of cultural appropriation. Just because the crowd is diverse does not make it the right kind of racial insensitivity. There is no such thing as the right kind of bigotry. Ted Turner, allegedly a liberal, never should have allowed this crud to get off the ground, he did and I hold him accountable. Bad move Ted, bad move. Dear Jane Fonda, why did your sweet soul give in?
So, yeah this team needs to address this insensitive (even though not intended-racist act). I honestly believe the majority of these fans are not hateful people, they just are not fully aware, that it is un-freaking acceptable! Don’t tell me if it was the Atlanta Arabs, or Turks, and people were mocking middle eastern clothing and music etc. and chanting loo-looo-loo-loo-looo, that it would be socially acceptable? What if fans dressed like ISIL or Al-Queda? Oh, now that would insensitive wouldn’t it?!
Can you imagine of it was the Atlanta Africans, with fake hatchets and some stereotypical fake African chant, people wearing leopard prints and zebra prints I don’t think there would be too many people standing for that. I would expect suddenly all of the players to refuse to play. I don’t hear anyone laughing anymore.
Look Atlanta, is an Awesome city and Georgia is an Awesome state, but that junk needs to go away with the confederate flag-shoved into a museum.
Fortunately, I have a wonderful idea where they can keep their color scheme and, even their hatchet logo, but they got to drop that pathetic, Sorry, gotta tell the truth, it is a bigoted mocking of American Indian music and chant. Make something new music-wise, where people can have their silly hatchets waving around. It can be done. I will PROVE IT when we get to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Fans always want to fall back on the weak recycled excuse of oh we are honoring, NO, there is a difference, mocking is sure as hell not honoring, but if you want to honor, how about honoring the veterans of the war of 1812 when the USA fought against Great Britain in a rematch from the war of independence? Show them some love, all veterans in general would appreciate it. When will sports honor our veterans? Other than the Super Bowl winning Patriots, I can’t think of any professional team that honors our veterans.
What you might not be aware of is that our veterans from that era were far more DIVERSE than people know. They weren’t just a bunch of white dudes, there were actually Native Americans, Free African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Filipino Americans (in the New Orleans and East Texas area battles). Britain actually had more Native allies and more Free African Americans as well. Regardless, YES, it’s true look it up. So now it can be INCLUSIVE, still be all-American red , white, and blue, and everyone can have their Styrofoam hatchet. Think of the cool logos and designs they could make?
Here is one website where you can get a taste of the different history I am talking about: http://usslave.blogspot.com/2013/03/black-sailors-and-soldiers-in-war-of.html
And before anyone says that would be insensitive to people of English heritage, I got three of many names for you-Margaret Thatcher, James Bond, and King Arthur, there is a multitude, of awesome positive English and British images.
Granted the above suggestion may still hold some controversy. Another suggestion, keep the colors and name, but make the mascot world war 2 veterans. Who can’t get behind the Vets’ of WW2? And not only do you honor the men who went and fought, but the women who also raised the household of kids and clocked in 40 plus at the factory by their bootstraps, while the men risked life and limb. That would be multi-cultural and gender inclusive. Or just make a fake generic character in Navy Blue complexion and Red hair. If it is fictional, it can different tools and weapons and more merchandise to sell.
Yeah you compete with Atlanta for second worst offender, anyone can google what their fans sometimes dress like, here is one confronting a Native Activist. I would bet every cent I have in Las Vegas that the guy wearing Redface is a Bigot and I wish Karma to clock some sense into him. He needs to be caught in a photo showing honest, heartfelt contrition before I am willing to give that jackass any fan amnesty.
Do you know the team has a “drummer” to help fans cheer with a mocking of Native cultures?
This franchise was once called the Spiders and in the 1897, it is widely believed, that when Cleveland signed up the first professional Native American baseball player, Louis Sockalexis, who had a splendid college career at Holy Cross, joined the team and had a very successful rookie year, showing a packaged blend of power, hitting for average, a rocket arm, defense, and speed so superb he was called the deerfoot of the diamond, but much of his experience with Cleveland’s fans was to be subjected to relentless racial taunts, over, and over, and over as well as fans from other cities. Unfortunate injuries would limit his success after his awesome rookie year. Just because he was an Indian some sportswriters then would refer to the team in articles as the Indians, despite the fact that the team was the Spiders.
A few years after Louis Sockalexis passed, the city decided in 1914 to officially change the name to the Indians. This is tantamount to the Brookyln-Los Angeles Dodgers deciding to re-name the team, the Negroes or Coloreds, after having Jackie Robinson break the color line for African-Americans, and suit up. Thank goodness the Dodgers have enough integrity never to pull that lunatic stunt. Sorry, I don’t recognize the honor. I call B.S. , it is an outlandish poor excuse instead to cover obvious bigotry.
Here is what Louis Sockalexis actually looked like. He looks pretty dashing in his suit and tie, if I were doing a movie back then about a guy just trying for the American dream and starting a little grocery store in Boston, I might have cast him as the lead, just because he looks G.Q. (Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine) cool. He also looks ready to play in his Cleveland SPIDERS uniform. Too bad he never looks happy, but I see why.
Cleveland took this cool looking dude and turned him and all of Native people into this horse poo-poo Chief Wahoo image below.
Don’t spit in my direction and claim it’s rain. I find this sense of honoring disturbing.
Of course Indians is not a bad word, but again the appropriation of culture and horrendous logo. Did they update the logo? Yes. Does it still suck almost as much? Yes.
Just to help you get the point it changes back and forth from another race and asks why is one acceptable, when the other is not. Now I’ve got your attention.
Here is another for good measure, what if Cleveland decided it wanted to honor South Asian Indians instead? I mean hey, we’re in a new century, why not share the so-called honor with a growing immigrant group to our country? Should South Asian Indians have to pay “dues” by having this racism bestowed upon them?
Go back to being the Spiders.
Florida State Seminoles and Utah Utes are two teams that have a lot of political support from the actual tribal nations, whose names they use. Each Native tribal nation wants to be respected as a sovereign nation, so that means their opinion supersedes anyone else on that matter.
Then again, I think Florida State and Utah need to stop the cultural appropriation by fans such as from mock dressing up by both, and then especially Florida State needs to drop asinine, disrespectful tomahawk chop which they invented, not Atlanta. Utah does not at least do the crappy chop.
If Utah stops the fan dress up junk then they should be sitting pretty.
If Florida State, thinks it’s no big deal and their players and coaches think it’s no big deal, then I have a challenge.
Are they and the school aware that the Seminoles were very open to granting runaway slaves equal citizenship, freedom, and acceptance? If the mascot thing is NO BIG DEAL, try offer honoring just the Black Seminoles and let’s see if that is acceptable. Golly gee, somehow, I think everybody would say its racist. That says something already about how America views American Indian PEOPLE (capitalized on purpose), seen as lower than all minorities, and less than human, even by the silent allegedly Liberal media, not so liberal when it comes to Indigenous Americans.
ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI AND NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING SOUIX
Illinois needs to rename its team. My understanding is Illini-Peoria people do not want this dishonor nor its horrific halftime fake Redface Chief Illinwek dancing at games, etc. Change it. It’s rather odd, as Illinois is a state that prides itself on being liberal, again not so when it comes to First Nations.
University of North Dakota is thankfully able to see the light. Dakota and Lakota people do not want the so called honor and Sioux is not a complimentary word to them btw. Suggestions were accepted earlier this year for a new name. See below.
MY FAVORITE NHL TEAM: CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
This organization is actually named directly for a World War 1 unit that the founding owner fought in, but that division named itself after the great Sauk and Fox Nation leader, Chief Blackhawk, who put his life on the line time and again to try to save his culture and people and their land. Still once upon a time fans used to dress up as Indians when going to games. Many, many years ago the local Native American community changed the organization’s view point. Fans just dress in a jerseys, hats, t-shirts, sweat shirts etc. The team has it’s own rock song, honoring modern North American culture (USA and Canada, and Mexico) etc. That new tradition seems to make fans happy. The team’s actual official mascot is a giant cartoon version of a Hawk, that happens to be black. Because of these changes over the years this franchise is not normally brought up by most activists. However, Suzanne Harjo, a person I have the utmost respect for has been a human rights activist for her fellow Native Americans for decades and she is not a fan of the jersey logo. Her opinion is enough alone for me. I suggest the team approach the Native community and ask them for a new logo for the jersey. Let them decide if it should be a Hawk that is Black, but somehow is in tune with their culture and in some way tied to the great person Blackhawk was. Give them the choice and you will not be disappointed.
ONE LAST SUGGESTION
For all of these teams, pro, college and high school, how come none of them are aware that the ethnicity in the USA, who leads above all in volunteering for our nations armed forces are Indigenous Americans? Native Americans enlist in the military at rate that is 2.68 times more than the combined rate of every other ethnicity. No one ever says let’s honor them as the ultimate volunteer. No matter what flag flies over this country, it is Indian Country. They are patriotic, even when the rest of the country wants them to happy being the good little mascot. Anyone of those teams could probably go to the activists and say can we call our team the Volunteers and show a logo of Native people in a modern armed forces uniform?
I am willing to bet that kind of respect could garner a blessing. Of course, in general the idea of using Native mascots is so tainted it is best to change them all together, and go a different direction.
WHY DOES THIS STUFF MATTER IN THE BIG PICTURE?
Every single person and group wants respect on an equal level. Do you want to be treated as a joke and looked down on? No one wants to be reduced to a caricature, as if you aren’t real. You see that similar fictional examples of other groups come off as offensive. These images help portray in the minds of Non-Natives on more of a sub-conscious level, hey they aren’t real and don’t have to be respected or treated with decency.
So when Native communities say, hey don’t dump those pollutants down stream in the river to their reservation, no don’t build a oil pipeline that could burst and ruin thousands of acres on tribal lands and damage their communities, or try to get a fair share of federal funds for (as called out for in treaties for lands taken from their ancestors) for healthcare, or tribal governments want to pursue legal prosecution for Non-Native citizens who have inappropriately assaulted a Native woman (2.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than any other American ethnicity and the guilty are many times Non-Native males who live off the rez’), but state governments and the federal government largely ignore these and many other issues. The suicide rate among Natives is also 2.5 times more than the combined national average of all other demographics. And Ahhum, actually, statistically, which group is the most likely to receive violence from law enforcement in the USA? See below.
It seems to be very easy for society in general to dismiss and mistreat a group of human beings that it sees as a sub-human cartoon sports mascot. Other than the Huffington Post, Bill Moyers, and Keith Olbermann, I can’t say I see any of the mainstream media, that allegedly prides itself on being against discrimination, having much to say on any of these topics that do tie together under the umbrella of oppression for Native people. I abhor this racist hypocrisy from the left in regards to Native Mascots. Their deaf ears to the issue sicken and anger me. Do these sports mascots have such power that CNN and MSNBC, CBS, ABC, EPSN, and NBC, do not recognize Native people as human beings? Evidently I must conclude yes.
How about this when a significant portion of any group says, hey that portrayal isn’t funny and we are offended and hurt, that alone should really be enough to make a stinkin’ change for cryin’ out loud. After all, when a treasured friend or family member asks us not to do or say something that hurts them, don’t most of us have enough decency to stop the joke? Respect should be enough reason.
Native people are human beings who put on their pants one leg at a time like the rest of us. Here is a picture of Native college students.
I think I’ve answered my own question.
Lastly, bless you and thank you if you finished reading this book of an article.