Mascots continue to cause controversy: Here are 3 of them

Activists are urging a North Dakota high school to drop its Midgets mascot
By: | December 16, 2019
Pekin Community High School District No. 303 in Illinois changed its mascot in 1980 from a derogatory term for Chinese people to the dragon.Pekin Community High School District No. 303 in Illinois changed its mascot in 1980 from a derogatory term for Chinese people to the dragon.

School mascots and nicknames that community members find offensive continue to generate controversy even as they are being replaced.

However, some school board members are choosing to stick with problematic mascots—even staking their political lives on the nicknames.

For instance, a controversy in Connecticut forced Killingly High School’s football team to play a state championship game this weekend without any mascot at all, the Hartford Courant reported.

Earlier last week, the district school board voted to dump the name Red Hawks, which, in October, was chosen to replace the school’s controversial Redmen mascot, according to the newspaper.


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A large majority of people who spoke at a recent meeting asked school board members to keep Red Hawk and send the controversy. Some speakers, however, called for the return of the Redmen in accordance with campaign promises made by some of the newly elected Republican school board members, the Courant reported.

In Michigan, a 2017 vote by the Paw Paw Public Schools Board of Education to bring back the high school’s Redskins mascot was included in an American Civil Liberties Union complaint that has sparked a federal investigation into the treatment of Native Americans in the district, according to MLive.com.

And in North Dakota, activists are urging Dickinson High School to drop its mascot, the Midgets, The Dickinson Press reported last week.

“It’s a word that has a lot of hate. It’s a word that is really derogatory, and it’s a word that represents a terrible history for us,” Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk, a representative with Little People of America, told the Dickinson School Board, according to the Press.

The school board actually voted to change the name in 1996, but three members were recalled by angered members of the community and the decision was overturned, the Press also reported.


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So where did the name come from. According to The Bismarck Tribune, a radio announcer calling a basketball game in the mid-1900s called the Dickinson players “our midgets” because they were smaller than the other team.

Concerns beyond the mascots

Some schools, however, are responding to complaints. The Menomonee Falls School Board in Wisconsin voted (5-2) last week to drop the high school’s Indians mascot at the end of the school year, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reported.

Menomonee Falls High School students will pick a new name and mascot in the fall, according to the Sentinel Journal.

And in May, Maine became the first state to ban the use of Native American mascots in its public schools and colleges, The New York Times reported. In 2012, Oregon’s Board of Education ordered public schools to drop Native American team names or lose their funding—unless they had they support of one of the state’s federally recognized tribes.

Beyond nicknames and mascots, a study released earlier this year found that wealthier students have greater access to organized youth sports than do less affluent children, District Administration reported.

“Children from lower-income families cannot afford this youth sports arms race,” Tom Farrey, executive director of the Sports & Society Program at The Aspen Institute, told DA. “These children have a more limited set of sports options in their communities, and they go to schools that offer a more limited set of opportunities and roster spots for the student population.”


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