When is a Sports Mascot Racist?

There have been some changes to team mascots in the sports world, from the pro ranks to high school, even though most have been viewed as being unintentionally racist. There have been two public discussions on the Lamar Savages mascot of recent note. One took place this past September during Governor Hickenlooper’s town hall visit to Lamar when he informed local residents that a task force was being formed by the lieutenant governor to look into such matters and the follow up discussion which was held Thursday night, February 25th, hosted by the Commission to Study American Indian Representations in Public Schools at Lamar Community College.

Some fifty residents made up of past and current Lamar students, elected officials, school board members and the general public was on hand to learn about the Commission’s agenda and how their findings might impact the Savage logo which has been in use since around 1910. Lamar is one of 16 schools in Colorado which uses some form of an American Indian representation as their school mascot. The general terms for the mascots are by name: Indians, Reds, Warriors or Savages. Four or five Panel members represented various Colorado tribes, including Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, Ute Mountain, Southern Mountain and Navaho. High school principals from Strasburg and Cheyenne Mountain and several students were also on the panel.

"We are not here to dictate," explained the meeting facilitator, Troy Eid, adding, "We just want to talk to you and listen to you. This commission has no authority to make any changes to any mascot and there is no legislation currently pending at the capital to make any such changes." Eid is the former Chief U.S. Attorney for Colorado under the George W. Bush administration. He said that about two years ago, a study got off on the wrong foot as it presented an, ‘either/or’ reference to either change your mascot logo or lose state funding for your school district. He said this commission group simply wants an exchange of ideas to learn more from each other, schools and Indian Nation Tribes before their findings are brought to the governor.

Eid offered the audience information regarding the negative impact ethnic sports mascots can have on youth to the point that Native American youngsters have shown the same rates of incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder as soldiers who have recently returned from duty in Afghanistan. 

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