By Maxwell Koller
Throughout history and currently today there has been a tradition of team mascots in a variety of professional sports with racially insensitive team logos that have a negative effect on society. Many professional sports teams were derived from racially insensitive eras, and although they might not intentionally reflect inherent racism of the past, the insignias still represent the origins of traditions started long ago.
For the sake of this commentary the professional football and baseball leagues illustrates multiple examples of racial insensitivity amongst its mascots and carries a stigma that only change of their respective organizations can bring. Mascots represent an entire fan community, and although by supporting an organization one might not be intentionally supporting racism, the concept still stands that wearing those logos allows acceptance of racism in our everyday society. Tradition from mascots can be changed and still retain the fan community and organizations core values and comradery without representing a racially insensitive insignia. Various cultures have spoken out against the professional football league in retaliation against the offenses made on their people.
In the National Football League one particular mascot stands out as a large source of controversy in society; The Washington Redskins. The Redskin organization carries a variety of racial offenses to the Native American community. The team mascot is a Native American head, with red skin complexion, with trailing feathers and braids. Originally this mascot stood to represent the original Indian imagery of the team when associated with the Boston Red Sox in 1933. The name was intended to disassociate from the baseball team as both the organizations shared Fenway Park as their playing field.
Although seemingly innocent, this Redskin mascot has caused a continuous outcry amongst the Native American society for decades to this current date as demand for the change of the mascot continues to increase. The first point of offense is this: the term “Redskin” references a particular skin color of a people that has traditionally been used as a derogatory reference to a Native American. It is officially classified as a racial slur.
The Washington Redskin organization is aware and cog nascent of these facts and continue to promote and establish themselves as a predominant marketing and professional force in the National Football League. And by knowingly accepting the terms of their logo they in turn are promoting racism amongst our society as a whole. The Redskins merchandise and football paraphernalia is sold worldwide in efforts to accumulate capitol and promote their brand and by doing so is spreading cultural insensitivity that is offensive to the Native American people and educated people as a whole.
The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) has for a long time now expressed defiance towards such an insulting racial slur to their people and have gone through a variety of measures to advocate change towards The Washington Redskin’s football organization. The NCAI has consistently advocated on record that the Redskin mascot, and a separate case being the Atlanta Braves mascot, carries multiple offenses to their people, demeaning their rituals and traditions. In order for this mascot to discontinue and be changed to another article, society as a whole needs to recognize and boycott the participation in The Washington Redskin’s activities and marketing in order for the owning participants to be forced to change what is considering horribly offensive to a culture of people.
Another professional football organization that carries much of the same stigmas as the Washington Redskins are the Atlanta Braves, a professional baseball organization that has existed for decades representing cultural insensitivities that are inappropriately represented throughout our society. The Major League Baseball entity has been the longest standing professional sport popular in American culture, and gradually shifting internationally.
With the Atlanta Braves residing in the most marketable, multibillion dollar league in the world, the racially insensitive team mascot of the red tomahawk, and a variety of other spinoffs is represented globally and allows an acceptance of racism by society as a whole. The recent revival of the “Screaming Indian” logo has been placed on this organization’s gear as a war chief with his mouth shaped in a battle cry.
Once again the Native American society is under attack as the Braves organization has proved unflappable in changing their logos to more socially appropriate standards despite the steady stream of complaints amongst the Native American people. The Native American society has declared several public complaints and lawsuits against the Braves organization to no prevail as the decision to change the logos lie predominantly with the current owner of the time, today being Jon Hart.
Our culture has reached a point in time where racial stances and political correctness are a major issue of controversy. Arguments for both sides exist however only one stands as the correct means of action. If a particular group of people or society is offended or misrepresented from those who know themselves the most, the offending groups need to respect and adhere to these policies in the grand effort of positive human nature and promotion of integrity and equality on our planet.
There is a remarkable difference between political correctness and direct racial profiling. Sporting organizations should not be allowed to create a culture based off of historically inaccurate figureheads that misrepresent and offends large quantities of people. The core issues now is to instill change in these organizations. With professional sports in such a global spotlight the ability to gain recognition and instill change among people is easier now than before through social media channels and global connectivity. In the case of these examples the Native American culture is horribly misrepresented in American professional sports, and has been pushed to the forefront as a topic to instill change for equality despite resilience from traditional thinkers. We cannot allow this type of racial insensitivity to exist in such a fragile time on our planet. Instilling change in racial stereotypes among professional sports is a major step in increasing equality for every culture in America and throughout the world.