Schools in the US state of Connecticut could lose out on their share of the $100 million the state’s tribal casinos have earmarked for education grants if they refuse to update their names, logos, or sports team nicknames, reports the NY Post.
Around a dozen schools in the state, who recently legalized online gambling, continue to “use the wide-ranging appropriation of Native-American-related imagery, culture and names,” according to Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mashantucket Pequots.
The two Native American tribes run the only legal casinos in the state, Foxwoods Casino Resort and The Mohegan Sun, respectively.
Red Men and Red Hawks
Over the past years, several Connecticut schools have dropped the “offensive” parts of their names, such as the Manchester Indians high school football team – which is now known as the Red Hawks.
That particular move was the result of student pressure. However, the new plan from the state’s two tribes (and Democratic congress members) would mean financial penalties for school boards that refuse to comply.
The town of Killingly, for example, saw public and student pressure to update its Mascot – known as the Redmen.
However, Republicans in the state legislature overturned the School Board’s decision in 2020, and the logo (but not the name) returned, with a slight redesign that was less “stereotypical.”
Republican school board members argued that the logo, not the name, was actually an “honor” and a token of appreciation.
However, opposing Democrats disagreed. “How many more Native Americans need to come to this meeting and tell you they don’t want the honor,” said school board member Hoween Flexer at a town meeting.
Under the new legislation passed recently, the school could potentially be in line to lose up to $94,000 a year in Casino-backed grants.
“Towns around this state have been told year after year by Connecticut’s Native American tribes that their nicknames and mascots are horribly offensive,” said State Senator Cathy Olsen, who sponsored this new bill.
“If certain cities and towns won’t listen to their fellow citizens, they can certainly do without the tribal money they are showing such disrespect toward,” she finished.
These moves by Connecticut tribes, using the power of their tribal casino income to their advantage, are not made in isolation. Across the US, especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and the death of George Floyd, many sports teams have been dropping their outdated and potentially offensive names.
Some commentators cite the traditional and commercial benefits of the logos and names, but this has not been enough for some of the US’ biggest sports franchises.
Currently, the Washington Football team is without an official name after dropping the name Redskins, which it had used for nearly 90 years. It will adopt an official new name and logo in 2022.
Ohio’s Cleveland Indians will also be changing their name. Like the Washington Football Team, their new name has not been revealed yet – although many fans and some insiders think they may return to their 1800s name, the Cleveland Spiders.
The club was quietly forced by the MLB to drop its “Chief Wahoo” logo, a cartoony, red-skinned Native American man, in 2018.
However, as evidenced by the several dozen examples in Connecticut alone, Native American imagery remains a staple in sports team names and logos across the country. Will this new potential financial penalty from Tribal Casinos actually work? Who knows.
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