Visiting speaker details problems with Native Americans as mascots

Richard King argues mascots are a type of marketing and branding for schools.

He also sees common misconceptions present with many universities and sports teams that use Native Americans as mascots.

“One of the reasons we can’t think of Native Americans a different way is that some of us have the inability or unwillingness to reflect one’s social location,” King said.

The Marge Bulger Sport History Lecture Series has been in existence for more than 17 years in honor of the former CMU faculty member, who taught from 1957 to 1992. Bulger was known for pushing to provide a better understanding to current or past issues in sports.

This year, the lecture series welcomed the voice of King, author of “Native Americans in Sports.” The expert on the subject spoke Wednesday in the Bovee University Center Auditorium.

At the beginning of the lecture, King pointed to how people tend to think of Native American mascots as “fun.”

He went through the history of CMU mascots and how the university adopted the Chippewa name. CMU was first known as the Fighting Teachers in 1927 and the Bearcats for almost 15 years.

King also commented on slides with pictures of teams that have Native American symbols as their mascots, such as the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas Jayhawks.

Lindsay Merritt, a Texas graduate student, was shocked by some of the pictures shown at the lecture.

“I was very intrigued by his examples and pictures,” Merritt said. I knew there was some controversy, but I didn’t know his perspective. I was shocked by the pictures he showed, but I enjoyed the lecture and it was great.

King said he believes as a society, people discourage the learning of Native American history and culture.

“Native American mascots emerge out of commodity racism,” King said. “Misrepresentation of Indians leads to misrecognition”.

King closed with tips on moving forward from the issue of wrongful use of Native Americans in sports.

People have to be aware they are privileged, King said. They also have to work to recognize the humanity of indigenous people and combat racism, he said.

Brock Haymaker, a Mount Pleasant sophomore, was pleased to get a different perspective on the issue other than from his friends.

“I thought it was really informative,” Haymaker said. “It had a lot of things you don’t normally hear just from talking to your friends.”


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