University of Illinois mascot Chief Illiniwek performs during a basketball game.
A recent report prepared by The Center for American Progress found stereotypical team mascots have a harmful effect on American Indian and Alaska Native youth.
Noting that the American Psychological Association issued a call to retire all team and school mascots based on depictions of Native Americans back in 2005, the study emphasized the psychological effects of such caricatures, including testimony from Native American youth.
Among those quoted in the report, “Missing the Point: the Real Impact of Native Mascots and Team Names on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth,” was Dr. Stephanie Fryburg, a psychology professor and expert on the effects of stereotypical mascot depictions on American Indian and Alaskan Native youth.
“American Indian mascots are harmful not only because they are often negative, but because they remind American Indians of the limited ways in which others see them,” said Fryburg. “This in turn restricts the number of ways American Indians can see themselves.”
Center For American Progress
According to the report, the effect on the self-esteem of those youth has serious consequences, including a suicide rate that is 2.5 times higher than the national average: 31 for every 100,000 American Indian youth, versus the 12.2 for every 100,000 youths nationally.
With the report, the Center for American Progress, an independent, nonpartisan educational institute, has joined the fray over the use of Native mascots in sports, highlighted by the current controversy over the NFL’s Washington Redskins.
In June, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the Redskins name was disparaging and invalidated the NFL franchise’s trademark over the name. Under U.S. Code, trademarks that disparage persons or bring them into contempt or disrepute are prohibited.