WSW: Mascots, Logos And The "R-Word" | WMUK

WSW: Mascots, Logos And The "R-Word"

Dec 18, 2017

Supporters and opponents of the Paw Paw "Redskins" at a school board meeting in February - file photo
Credit Sehvilla Mann / WMUK

Linda Cypret-Kilbourne says the name Redskins turns her stomach. One of the founders of the Michigan Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media says the name comes from the scalping of Native American people when there were bounties on their heads, money was paid for the scalps of men, women and children.

Cypret-Kilbourne and another member of the coalition, Julie Dye, joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans to discuss their efforts to end the use of Native-American themed mascots for school sports teams. Paw Paw’s school board voted earlier this year to continue using the name Redskins. Defenders of the name say it’s meant to honor the region’s Native American heritage. Dye says the intent doesn’t negate the negative impact of the name on Native Americans.

Dye says the “R word” is the worst nickname, but she says mascots in general should not target a race of people. Asked about agreements reached between some schools and tribal leaders. Dye says they can specify uniforms and logos, but can’t control what happens in the bleachers or what the opposing team does.

The Nottawseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi has set up a fund to help schools pay for the cost of changing mascots and logos. Dye says that means there’s really no reason not to change. Cypret-Kilbourne says facilities and uniforms have to be replaced and updated periodically. She says they’ve encouraged schools to make changes on that schedule to avoid additional cost. 

Cypret-Kilbounre says it would be best if schools decided on their own to change their nicknames and mascots. But there are bills in the Legislature that would require schools to drop nicknames, slogans and imagery related to Native Americans.