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Sports Mascots: Redskins name could be under fire

by Guy Blasi

LA VETA- Under a newly proposed bill in the Colorado State Senate, public schools with Native American Indian mascots may have to change their mascot name.  This would affect La Veta High School which has used the name, Redskins, for over 100 years.  To many Native Americans, terms such as “redskins” or “savages” are considered insults.  When used as a team mascot name, the slur is felt to be comparable to using the word “Niggers” as a sports team name.

    State Senate Bill 107 has been proposed by Democrat Suzanne Williams of Aurora.  Williams introduced the bill last week saying, "I am concerned with American Indian mascots that are caricatures with a funny nose or something."   A front-page story in last Friday′s Denver Post indicated that SB 107 includes a provision that schools would have to obtain approval for continued use of an American Indian mascot name from the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs.  According to the bill, schools that fail to get approval for continued use would be fined $1,000 per month. Williams states she is one-quarter Comanche.

    "There is no way I can support this Bill," said Republican State Senator Ken Kester of Las Animas County, who represents two schools in his district that use American Indian mascots, La Veta and Lamar (Savages).  "I believe this is a matter of local school board control," Kester said.  "I read the bill and I believe this is really overreaching.  In no way do I think using them [references to American Indians] is derogatory.  I cannot support this bill."

    La Veta Athletic Director Don Price said, “From our vantage point, we see the mascot as nothing but a positive.  I was at Adams State College when we went through the name change and it raised a lot of emotions.  I’d hate to see us have to change the name.” 

    Due to the pressures of political correctness, most colleges and universities which had American Indian mascots dropped the mascot names.  Local examples are Adams State College Grizzlies and CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolves.  Both schools previously used Indian as their mascot name.  Other examples nationwide include Stanford University and St. John′s University which also changed their teams’ names. 

    Various school districts across Colorado have been under pressure by various groups to change mascot names associated with American Indians.  Most school districts have refused to bow to the pressure.   There is only one school which has changed its name.  In the 1990’s, the Jefferson County School District forced Arvada High School to change its mascot name from “Redskins” to Reds.  In the 1990s the Lamar Savages girls basketball team was making frequent appearances at the Colorado state basketball tournament.  Not only did Lamar High School have to deal with on-court pressures but also with sign-carrying protesters outside the Denver Coliseum.  Lamar′s school district has refused to give in to the pressure.

    Besides La Veta and Lamar, the Bill affects 13 other Colorado high schools.  “If I would have to guess, this will make it out of the Senate Committee,” Kester said.  “But I think the bill will die on a Senate floor vote.  But in Colorado politics, one just never knows.”

    Professional sports teams such as the NFL’s Washington Redskins and MLB’s Cleveland Indians have ignored numerous national protests.

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