Petition to the NCAA and American Pro Sports Leagues
Dear commissioners, team presidents, and NCAA Board of Governors,
I sign onto the movement to bring sporting culture into the 21st century. Specifically, I recognize that it’s time to end the pain caused to Native American communities by outdated and harmful team branding and traditions in sports, and I urge you to take appropriate action.
It’s time to change the team nicknames and mascots of the National Football League’s Kansas City Chiefs, Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves (and associated minor league franchises with the same moniker), the National Hockey League’s Chicago Blackhawks, and the Florida State Seminoles of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
It’s time to stop using all co-opted Indigenous names and imagery, and it’s time to outlaw use of offensive tropes such as the “tomahawk chop” at games.
Studies show that Native communities, particularly youth, suffer adverse psychological effects from the continuation of Native mascots and mimicry in popular culture. Children grow up with increased anxiety and a compromised self-image because of these harmful names and sporting traditions, which perpetuate stereotypes and mock and devalue the actual, diverse traditions within various Indigenous communities.
Much is changing in the world, exemplified by the radical shift in perspective we’ve recently seen in the NFL. This league, which just a few years back, blacklisted Colin Kaepernick — a talented quarterback who had just led his team to the Super Bowl — for taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest police violence against Black People, has now endorsed similar support of the Black Lives Matter movement at its games.
Then, after years of stubborn refusal, the NFL team from Washington, D.C. and the MLB team from Cleveland recently bowed to pressure from activists and sponsors and consented to change their names and logos. The old names and logos would never last ten seconds in any focus group to select new branding in 2022. And yet, it took until now, for a renewed moment of mass recognition and outcry, for them to change.
For many years, Native People have talked about these issues, long before it was politically savvy to do so. But, for many Native People, these deleterious stereotypes matter greatly.
So I ask, as you hold power to influence and create change for the better in sports culture and our society as a whole, to listen to affected populations and their allies. Please take action to further justice for Native American People by eliminating the last vestiges of open racism in your game.
Coming up with new nicknames, new logos, new mascots, and new branding for these teams should be easy. Repairing the harm they have wrought will be more difficult. I stand with the movement to make that happen, step by step. I ask you, and all entities in charge of American sports, to do the same.