Mascot Fight

Is it wrong for schools and sports teams to use American Indians as mascots?

February 03, 2012

For years, college and professional sports teams have debated whether it is right or wrong to use American Indian imagery, names and mascots. For many people, the practice is offensive.

Still, professional teams such as the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins have kept their names and mascots over the years. Some tribes have given permission for college teams to use their names, as with the Florida State Seminoles and the Utah Utes.

In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) urged 18 schools to get rid of the imagery. If they refused, the schools would not be allowed to host postseason events or use the name or logo in postseason games.

The University of North Dakota (UND) sued the NCAA to keep its Fighting Sioux name. The NCAA agreed to let the school keep the name if it got permission from both the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux reservations in North Dakota.

What’s in a Name?

Spirit Lake says the tribe gave its blessing more than 40 years ago. And in 2009, it put the question to a full tribal vote. Members voted for UND to keep the name.

But Standing Rock’s tribal council voted against the team name. Opponents of the nickname say that it encourages prejudice. Peter Johnson, a UND spokesman, said the school will make the change. “That’s the best thing for our sports programs,” he said.

Fighting Sioux fans aren’t giving up. Spirit Lake and 1,000 supporters from Standing Rock recently sued the NCAA. “We fight for what Spirit Lake wants,” says Frank Black Cloud, who is a member of Spirit Lake. “The name is an enormous source of pride.”

What’s your opinion? Should teams use American Indian imagery? Vote in the poll below.

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