Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth

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Author(s): The Center for American Progress

  • Erik Stegman
  • Victoria Phillips

Published: July 22, 2014

Report Intro/Brief:
“The debate over the racist name and mascot of the professional football team based in the nation’s capital, the “Redskins,” has reached a fever pitch in recent months. Fifty U.S. senators signed a letter urging the National Football League, or NFL, to take action and change the name. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently canceled several of the team’s trademarks because they were disparaging to American Indian and Alaska Native, or AI/AN, people and communities. And several media outlets across the country have stopped printing and using the name.

Much of the recent debate has centered on issues such as economics. Many fans and media commentators have debated the cost of changing the name for the team and the league. Others have focused on the “legacy” and memories that fans will lose with a new name. And perhaps the most referenced issue is the team’s supposed lack of racist or derogatory intent. But too much of the debate misses the point. It is not just about a name, a logo, a business, or a matter of intent. Racist and derogatory team names have real and harmful effects on AI/AN people every day, particularly young people.

This report examines the current research about the impact of these mascots and team names on the mental health and self-esteem of AI/AN students, while sharing the real stories of AI/AN students in their own words. It also provides an overview of the ongoing movement across the country to retire them from K-12 and postsecondary schools. Finally, the report proposes recommendations to local, state, and federal agencies that will help school administrators, educators, and community members transform learning environments that are hostile and unwelcoming to AI/AN students and their families into ones that are supportive.”