Little League changes rules about mascot use

Little League prohibits the use of team names, mascots, nicknames or logos that are racially insensitive & derogatory

Harv Hilowitz

After a two year effort, and with the recent help of Indian Country Today, the National Congress of American Indians, the anti-racism Southern Poverty Law Center, the Ulster County NY Human Rights Commission and others, Little League International, based in Williamsport PA (the governing body of all global Little League affiliated leagues and teams), has informed me that it has decided to promulgate a new official policy in its Rulebook for 2019, stating that: “Little League (Int’l) prohibits the use of team names, mascots, nicknames or logos that are racially insensitive, derogatory or discriminatory in nature. Little League requires all chartered local league programs, volunteers, as well as regular employees, to comply with the policies outline above.  Disciplinary action to address violations of the policies outlined above will be determined in the sole discretion of either the Charter Committee or Little League management, as applicable.”

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Although the new rule does not explicitly mention the prohibition of derogatory Native American imagery, the rule was specifically created to cover that kind of abuse, and in fact extends protection against ANY such abuses for any and all racially insensitive imagery used by Little League affiliated teams anywhere.

Literally millions of youngsters in the USA and around the world are involved with Little League baseball and softball, so this prohibition is most important.

In 2005, the NCAA passed such a directive, resulting in hundreds of college and other school sports teams dropping their derogatory “Indian” names and imagery, resulting in a cultural thought revolution of sorts throughout the country. And in 2018, the Cleveland Indians finally “retired” into oblivion their stereotype “Chief Wahoo” mascot. With institutional and public pressure, victories can happen. Next to fall will be the Washington DC NFL team’s horribly racist name.

Regarding what started me off on this campaign was a local Little League team’s disgusting “Chief Wahoo” imagery on the kids’ uniforms and hats, on their road signage, on their website and stationery.

When I contacted the local League I was invited to a Board meeting and was told, “No one had ever complained about it before.”

Sorry, but that’s no excuse for a derogatory, racist image anywhere, but especially not in front of the kids. There’s a new rule in town now.

We’ll see if the local League follows the umbrella organization’s leadership, and takes down the damn sign. Special thanks to Little League International for being open to change, and being anti-discriminatory regarding Indian Country, and all ethnicities and nationalities. With some energy and effort, ending hate speech and imagery can happen.

Harv Hilowitz writes from Stone Ridge, New York.

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