The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) recently unveiled a poster framing the context of how degrading, insulting and racist using American Indian images such as that of the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins really is. For decades, sport franchises have allowed caricatures of American Indians to dominate branding, marketing and even game-time fan participation (think the Atlanta Braves’ Tomahawk Chop).
Founded in 1944, the NCAI is concerned that negative Indian stereotypes – including those perpetuated by sports mascots – negatively “affect the reputation and self-image of every single Native person and foster ongoing discrimination against tribal citizens. [Mascots] present a misleading image of Indian people and feed the historic myths that have been used to whitewash a history of oppression.”
Over the past half-century, work to eliminate the use of discriminatory and derogatory images in American sports has successfully eliminated over two-thirds of Indian sports mascots and logos. According to the NCAI, “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 are still nearly 1,000 racially insensitive mascots in use across the United States, from peewee leagues, to collegiate teams, and in the realm of professional sports.
The NCAI makes a singular, strong, irrefutable case with their recent poster: “This misrepresentation would not be acceptable for any other minority community in America.”