Anti-Defamation & Mascots

From time immemorial, the greatness of tribal nations and Native people has been the foundation of America’s story. From tribes’ role as America’s first governments, to modern day actors, athletes, and political leaders, Native people contribute to American greatness every single day. Negative Indian stereotypes – especially those perpetuated by sports mascots – affect the reputation and self-image of every single Native person and foster ongoing discrimination against tribal citizens.

In general, NCAI strongly opposes the use of derogatory Native sports mascots. However, in the case where mascots refer to a particular Native nation or nations, NCAI respects the right of individual tribal nations to work with universities and athletic programs to decide how to protect and celebrate their respective tribal heritage.

Indian mascots and stereotypes present a misleading image of Indian people and feed the historic myths that have been used to whitewash a history of oppression. Despite decades of work to eliminate the use of discrimination and derogatory images in American sports, the practice has not gone away.

NCAI is pleased that tribal advocates have succeeded in eliminating over two-thirds of derogatory Indian sports mascots and logos over the past 50 years. Today, there are fewer than 1,000 of these mascots left. In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the governing body of college athletics, formally condemned the use of disparaging mascots and banned the use of Indian names, logos, and mascots during its championship tournaments.

However, there is plenty of work yet to do—especially in the realm of professional sports. NCAI recognizes that this can be a difficult and sensitive issue, and we acknowledge the significance of athletics for the public, as well as the attachment (both emotionally and financially) of professional teams and university athletic programs to their names and logos. At the end of the day, there is no excuse for cultural stereotypes that degrade, slander, mock or belittle Native people. This misrepresentation would not be acceptable for any other minority community in America and NCAI will continue to oppose the use of offensive Native mascots and imagery that promote harmful stereotypes.

 

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