It’s Time to Retire the Indian Motif in Sports
When Kevin Gover was a kid growing up in Norman, Oklahoma, college students at the nearby University of Oklahoma had begun protesting the school’s mascot. Known as “Little Red,” the mascot was a student costumed in a war bonnet and breech cloth who would dance to rally crowds. Gover, who today is the director of the American Indian Museum, says he remembers thinking, “I couldn’t quite understand why an Indian would get up and dance when the Sooners scored a touchdown.” Of Pawnee heritage, Gover says he understands now that the use of Indian names and imagery for mascots is more than just incongruous. “I’ve since realized that it’s a much more loaded proposition.”
On February 7, joined by a panel of ten scholars and authors, Gover will deliver opening remarks for a discussion on the history and ongoing use in sports today of Indian mascots.
Though many have been retired, including Oklahoma’s Little Red in 1972, notable examples—baseball’s Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves, and football’s Washington Redskins—continue, perhaps not as mascots, but in naming conventions and the use of Indian motifs in logos.
“We need to bring out the history, and that’s the point of the seminar, is that it’s not a benign sort of undertaking,” explains Gover. He’s quick to add that he doesn’t regard the teams’ fans as culpable, but he likewise doesn’t hesitate to call out the mascots and the names of the teams as inherently racist. - Continue reading at Smithsonian.com.
Ed note: The director of the American Indian Museum believes that in a decade or two, culturally insensitive mascots in sports will be gone. What do you think?