University of Wisconsin point guard Bronson Koenig, who recently stepped into the starting role, is getting press for his steady guidance of the team—and now, his statements regarding Native American mascots.
Koenig, Ho-Chunk, told Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he is “disappointed” that Native mascots are still in use. “I feel like … with the mascots and all that stuff I think people think it’s OK to make fun of us,” he said. “I feel sometimes like we are lowest of the low, among the minorities. … And when a Native American kid sees that growing up and sees the disrespect, it lowers their self-esteem and puts them in a lower place in society. It’s just not a good feeling.”
Koenig’s views reflect what studies have shown. A 2013 report from the National Congress of American Indians stated that “when exposed to these [Native mascot] images, the self-esteem of Native youth is harmfully impacted, their self-confidence erodes, and their sense of identity is severely damaged. Specifically, these stereotypes affect how Native youth view the world and their place in society, while also affecting how society views Native peoples.”
Koenig specifically addressed the controversy over the Washington Redskins. “Is our skin red?” he asked. “Would it be OK for the Kansas City Negroes or the Blackskins? That’s not OK at all.” Koenig has little patience for the argument, relentlessly advanced by the team’s fans and owner, that the name “honors” Native Americans. “It’s honoring them? It’s not racist?” he asked. “How are you going to say that when you’re not a Native American?”
On the court, Koenig has been a more-than-able replacement for Traevon Jackson, who went out with an ankle injury in Wisconsin’s loss to Rutgers on January 11. In the five games since, the Badgers haven’t lost, and have improved from #7 to #5 in the national rankings.