By Kaleigh Cortez, News Editor–
The Super Bowl this past weekend between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs made me think back to the recent, yet not recent, controversies surrounding racist mascots of sports teams.
Professional teams, like the Atlanta Braves and the Super Bowl attendees, and public schools across the nation, like my high school rivals, the Loudon Redskins, are under fire for using Native American heritage as a caricature to cheer for at sporting events.
These teams limit Native Americans to their stereotypical imagery of arrowheads, feathered headdresses, and drum beats, paying no attention to the harmful nature of using a group’s history to demean their entire, complex way of life.
Supporters of these mascots claim that they are honoring indigenous groups’ fighting spirit, bravery, and pridefulness.
These are the same people who paint their faces red and perform chants with their foam tomahawks.
This kind of behavior is a form of cultural appropriation that is no better than blackface.
I agree with the native groups that this sort of imagery is offensive, dated, and should be removed from all teams.
However, I believe that there is an alternative to this predicament that does not result in eradicating Native American culture from the public completely.
Instead of changing a team name to something unrelated to indigenous people, teams could, and perhaps should, rebrand themselves to honor a local tribe.
Their mascot or name could become a historical figure or tradition from their tribe.
Stadiums could ban racist imagery and behaviors from their stadiums.
ESPN could release documentaries on the chosen tribe to educate fans on their history.
Teams could work with tribe leaders to discuss the best ways to approach all aspects of the rebranding to honor their tribe.
As 2004 Native American of the Year and member of the Chickasaw Nation, Steve Denson said, “I believe it is acceptable if used in a way that fosters understanding and increased positive awareness of the Native-American culture. And it must also be done with the support of the Native-American community. There is a way to achieve a partnership that works together to achieve mutually beneficial goals.”
We should be rallying behind the indigenous people of America instead of removing them from the public eye yet again.