American Indian Mascot Controversy
For several years now, the use of terms and images of American Indians (AI) as names or mascots for sports teams across the United States has been hotly debated. Since the 1960s, the American Indian population has protested against the use of terms and images of individuals from the race by sporting teams. Despite the protests and widespread opposition, some teams continue to use such terms and images as mascots or as names of the teams. Washington Redskins is at the forefront of using terms such as “redskins” believed to be in bad faith. Atlanta Braves also uses terms and images of Native Americans as can be seen in their logo that has changed over the years from an Indian in a full headdress to one with a Mohawk hairstyle. The “Braves” is also believed to refer to American Indians. Opponents of the use of such terms and images by sports teams believe that this should stop whereas supporters believe that this is a way of celebrating America’s history and heritage. It is time the federal government forced sporting teams, including the Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins to abandon mascots that emulate American Indians.
In contemporary American society, it is believed that everyone can use American Indians as they see fit. Additionally, everyone owns individuals of American Indian origin. The contemporary Americans argue that Indianness is a national heritage that ought to be celebrated. Many people are of the view that Indianness is just but a costume that can be worn in any sporting event, youth activity, or party. These views or perceptions of Indianness are wrong and misplaced. This group is similar to other races in the U.S. and they out to be respected and treated with the dignity they deserve. The decision by various sporting teams to use Indian costumes during sporting events is uncalled for and is a demonstration of a lack of respect and dignity to the race. Continued use of Indian images as mascots by sporting teams is a representation of a sense of entitlement and white privilege that has no place in modern American society. It is on this basis that teams such as Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins should be forced to abandon such practices.
Social science research supposes that sports mascots and images are important symbols with deep effects from social and psychological viewpoints in the larger community. They are more than mere forms of entertainment as many people believe or imagine. The continued use of American Indian names and images by sports teams propagates ethnic stereotyping. Already, American Indians face many problems including the lack of recognition by the federal government, low levels of education, and high rates of poverty. These issues are worsened by the misunderstandings and prejudice promoted by ethnic stereotyping. Social sciences further argue that both positive and negative stereotypes have harmful effects, particularly on the victims of the same. In the U.S., for instance, the negative stereotypic views of American Indians have resulted in their poor relations or interactions with people of other races. Reports by clinical psychologists indicate that children of American Indians internalize the stereotypes, which in turn, jeopardize their racial identities and development of positive self-images. Thus, the use of mascots that emulate American Indians remains questionable and should be abandoned.
The practice of using Native American mascots has little to do with Native Americans. As many American Indians argue, the mascots are not and cannot in any way be a representation of America’s indigenous men and women. The red faces of the mascots are much like the black face; an imagining and invention that are largely a representation of a racial other. The use of American Indian mascots by sporting teams such as Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins is a reflection and reinforcement of the key feature of racial and gendered privilege in what is seen as a settler society. Euro-Americans have since developed a sense of entitlement to everything in the U.S. and leverage on the use of American Indian mascots to achieve their objective. American Indian activists such as Charlene Teters argue that the American Indian images are powerful and it is unfortunate that non-native Americans do not see their historical and cultural value.
Overall, all sporting teams in the U.S. including the Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins should be forced by the federal government to abandon mascots that emulate American Indians. There is the perception among non-Natives that Indianness is just but a costume that can be worn in any sporting event, youth activity, or party. This view is wrong and shows a lack of respect and dignity for Indian Americans. Also, the continued use of American Indian names and images by sports teams propagates ethnic stereotyping that worsens the problems already faced by American Indians. Moreover, the practice is a reflection and reinforcement of the key feature of facial and genders privilege in what is seen as a settler society.
“Fast Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country,” Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute., https://assets.aspeninstitute.org/content/uploads/files/content/images/Fast%20Facts.pdf
Hirschfelder, Arlene and Molin, Paulette F. “I is for Ignoble: Stereotyping Native Americans,” Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University, https://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/news/jimcrow/native/homepage.htm.
Longwell-Grice, Robert, and Hope Longwell-Grice. “Chiefs, braves, and tomahawks: The use of American Indians as university mascots.” NASPA Journal 40, no. 3 (2003): 1-12., https://cedu.niu.edu/~walker/research/Theoretical.pdf
 Hirschfelder, Arlene and Molin, Paulette F. “I is for Ignoble: Stereotyping Native Americans,” Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University
 “Fast Facts on Native American Youth and Indian Country,” Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute.
 Longwell-Grice, Robert, and Hope Longwell-Grice. “Chiefs, braves, and tomahawks: The use of American Indians as university mascots.” NASPA Journal 40, no. 3 (2003): 1-12.