Adidas has announced an initiative to help high schools transition away from using Native American mascots, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Around 2,000 schools use Native American mascots, according to the organization Change the Mascot, and Adidas has offered all of them both financial and design resources to help create new mascots in a manner that is not cost prohibitive.
“Today’s announcement is a great way for us to offer up our resources to schools that want to do what's right — to administrators, teachers, students and athletes who want to make a difference in their lives and in their world,” Eric Liedtke, Adidas’ head of global brands, said in a statement. “Our intention is to help break down any barriers to change — change that can lead to a more respectful and inclusive environment for all American athletes.”
Adidas also plans to create a coalition that will aim to address the Native American mascot controversy across all sports.
The debate over Native American mascots isn't new, but in recent years calls for the NFL's Washington Redskins to change their name has grown. The controversy over Washington has increased national attention on the use of Native American mascots in all levels of sport.
Proponents of changing the Redskins' name say it is racist and denigrating to Native Americans, while many defenders—such as Washington owner Dan Snyder—argue it is a badge of honor.
In a statement to SI.com, Washington Redskins spokesman Maury Lane criticized Adidas, warning that the apparel company would target the names of professional sports teams next.
“The hypocrisy of changing names at the high school level of play and continuing to profit off of professional like-named teams is absurd. Adidas make hundreds of millions of dollars selling uniforms to teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and the Golden State Warriors, while profiting off sales of fan apparel for the Cleveland Indians, Florida State Seminoles, Atlanta Braves and many other like-named teams. It seems safe to say that Adidas’ next targets will be the biggest sports teams in the country, which won’t be very popular with their shareholders, team fans, or partner schools and organizations.”
In July, a federal judge upheld the cancelation of the Redskins trademark after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office labeled it “disparaging to Native Americans.” In October, California specifically banned the use of Redskins as a public school team nickname, and Oregon and Wisconsin have also banned the use of Native American nicknames and images in public school sports.
- Erin Flynn