I feel like we’ve reached the point where this should not need saying anymore, but apparently it does: Sports team logos based on Native Americans are racist and offensive, and it’s time for them to go away. Just because we’ve grown accustomed to seeing logos and mascots like those for the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians does not mean that they are acceptable. They’re relics of a time when sensibilities were different, and they have overstayed their welcome. (Imagine a new expansion team in any sport adopting a Native American mascot. Seems unlikely, doesn’t it?)
This issue, of course, has been called into the public eye again because of Washington Reskins owner Dan Snyder’s comments that the Redskins would never change their name. And while the Redskins are the worst offender because their team name is an actual ethnic slur, I think it’s time for every team that uses Native American imagery in its brand to make another choice.
These mascots vary in levels and types of offensiveness, from the less offensive but still offensive Kansas City Chiefs, whose logo is an arrowhead and whose mascot is a horse named “Warpaint” (and here I’m discounting the other Chiefs mascot, KC Wolf, who has nothing to do with anything), to the Atlanta Braves, who planned to reintroduce their incredibly racist “screaming savage” logo at Spring Training this year, then backtracked when people (like yours truly!) pointed out how racist it was, and the Cleveland Indians, whose Chief Wahoo logo depicts a caricature of a Native American with exaggerated features. (To their credit, the Indians have somewhat shifted away from their Chief Wahoo cap to their old classic cap with the capital C, but they still use Chief Wahoo on their uniform, and they still call themselves the Indians.)
In my heart, I believe that most professional sports teams who have Native American-themed identities wish they could have a do-over—they get the argument against treating an oppressed race of people as a mascot, but it’s just so expensive and time consuming to change now. As for the people who defend the Native-American-as-mascot phenomenon, I feel like I’ve been hearing the same tired arguments forever.