Other Name Controversies

By: Analise Thomas

The Axemen name controversy has been a topic widely discussed in the recent months, with many people voicing their opinions on whether or not it should actually be changed. However, mascot and team name controversies are nothing new and have influenced changes in several schools and teams nationwide throughout the years.

From high school team names to NFL mascots, opinions about names and what they symbolize have been hotly debated. The most popular discussions stem from issues of names or mascots relating to Native Americans. For example, the controversy of the Washington Redskins football team sparked debate among several advocacy groups in the past. They state that it is disrespectful to Native Americans, as it makes fun of their skin color. For many years, these issues have been argued and have led to questioning if changing the name or mascot is needed. However, a survey conducted through the Washington Post revealed that 9 out of 10 Native Americans are not actually offended by the name.

In another recent instance, the Cleveland Indians decided to remove their logo, known as Chief Wahoo from advertisements and uniforms. This decision came after a long debate in which Native Americans and other supporters protested the logo and the “Indians” name itself. For them, they saw it as offensive and giving the wrong idea of Native American culture.

The controversies stemming from stereotypes have surfaced again and again, with people both arguing for change and for “traditions to be preserved.” Yet another occasion in which negative stereotypes influenced a discussion for changing a team name has been seen in the baseball team, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have been under fire for their name because it has ties to Native American stereotypes. From 1966 to 1986, the team had a mascot named Chief Noc-a-Homa, who was played by a man named Levi Walker, who dressed in war attire and painted his face. During the games, after performing for the stadium, he would run off into a teepee for the rest of the game. In 2013, the Atlanta Braves brought back a logo known as the “Screaming Savage” or the “Screaming Indian.” This logo is widely considered to be insensitive and offensive to Native American culture and has raised a huge debate about what is acceptable to use.

And last but not least are the Roseburg Indians in Roseburg, Ore. In 2013, Roseburg High School was told that they needed to change their mascot by July 2017 or else they could risk losing funding. This came after a long debate that ended with a decision that all high schools in Oregon with Native American origins needed to change their names, including the Roseburg Indians. However, in May 2017, Roseburg High School finally got permission to keep their name with several conditions that needed to be met. One of these conditions included changing the existing curriculum to a Native American culture inspired curriculum. The decision will be reconsidered every three years to ensure that everyone is satisfied with the outcome.

There are several controversies nationwide about what is and is not acceptable as mascot representation issues arise every day that spark debate. With this rising debate, along with recent reactions (ie, changing the Axemen to the Axe), it seems there is a cultural shift where names and mascots change to include more people.


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