Not Your Mascot

Everyone in the sports world is aware of the Not Your Mascot movement. It’s the idea that Indians, Braves, Mohawks, Seminoles aren’t reasonable names for teams; that Native images aren’t reasonable models for logos and mascots; and that these practices should end. But teams say it’s a way of paying tribute.  Honestly, is this really a big deal?

OF COURSE IT’S A BIG DEAL!

Take a look at these. Who would put up with this? Would Jews (my — SJ’s — people) or Asians be expected to consider these a way of paying tribute?

Hats

But when it’s Native names/nations/clothing at issue, it suddenly becomes “an homage.” Honoring the culture. Like this?

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This is no homage. It’s a racist caricature, like the two above.

So why do so many people actually think it IS a way of honoring Native peoples?

Sport is ritualized violence. Teams attack and destroy each other, using superior strength and strategy. It’s war games. (Remember, I’m speaking as a jock. I love sports. So don’t start with me.)  We’ve built a myth of the Indian warrior based partly on the truth of the past. Damn, it was hard for whites to eradicate those guys! They fought like a sonuvabitch. Once the Native populations weren’t a threat anymore, though, white people began to romanticize them. We’re soft, car-bound, powerless. Our sports heroes do our fighting for us; we sit on the sofa and point the remote. But man, we admire those guys on the court, on the field. They’re fierce and tough. Like the stories tell us the Indians were. So let’s name them after Indians! What’s wrong with that?

Here’s what’s wrong with it: the part about “the stories tell us.” Native Americans aren’t a myth for the shoring up of our collective American identity — collective as long as it doesn’t include them. They’re real people, like, um, Jews and Asians.  We sports fans need to find something else — Giants, Hornets, Grizzlies — to project our fantasies onto.

The owners say rebranding would disrupt tradition. Yes, the tradition of racism. It would be expensive, but you can’t put a price on good will, or on the moral high ground. Some people are afraid it would be confusing, but really, we sports fans are smarter than that. The Washington Bullets managed to change their name to the Wizards without a single fan wandering around wondering where his team went.

Or maybe we could go in a whole other direction. Just sayin.’

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