Over the past 35 years, Native American advocacy has resulted in the eradication of 2/3 of Native-themed mascots from schools across America. Not one professional sports team has selected a race-based logo or name since 1963.
As the controversy surrounding the National Football League’s Washington Redsk*ns has reached national levels, so too has the scrutiny of Native mascots at the local level.
California just became the first state in the nation to enact legislation ending the use of a racial slur in four holdout schools. Colorado has created a commission to assess the use of Native American mascots and make recommendations. School districts in New York, Indiana, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Oklahoma heard the call and made change.
On Thursday, Adidas joined the growing swell of momentum and announced a new initiative to offer its design resources to any high school wishing to change their Native American mascot, and provide financial assistance to ensure it is not cost prohibitive.
“High school social identities are central to the loves of young athletes, so it’s important to create a climate that feels open to everyone who wants to compete,” said Mark King, president of Adidas Group North America, in a press release. “But the issue is much bigger. These social identities affect the whole student body and, really, entire communities.”
Adidas announcement coincided with the White House Tribal Nations Conference held in Washington, D.C. During a panel with Native American youth, President Obama commended Adidas for taking such a monumental step towards recognizing that Native mascots create an ostracizing educational environment for Native students on day one of school.
With such a game-changing step from one of the world’s largest sports brands, the President noted that schools with Native mascots “really don’t have an excuse anymore.”
In 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) recommended the immediate retirement of all Native-themed mascots in educational institutions, athletic teams, etc., based on empirical evidence demonstrating the harmful impact of Native mascots on the self-esteem of Native American children.
Last March, psychologists at the University of Buffalo conducted a study of predominantly white participants and determined that regardless of positive intent to honor Native Americans, mascots brought to mind negative thoughts and stereotypes associated with Native peoples and that participants exposed to Native mascots were more likely to negatively stereotype other ethnic groups.
Adidas has also committed to be a founding member of a coalition to assess the issue of Native imagery and mascots in sports, and working to find ongoing solutions.