Saturday, July 1, 2017


Bob Resch. Purple Walrus Press.

A Supreme Court ruling on June 19, 2017 deemed that trademark names
and images that are considered derogatory deserve First Amendment rights.
This could have local repercussions for those who once defended the
rights of Eastern Michigan University using the "Hurons" and Ypsilanti
High School using the "Braves" for sports programs.

"The bedrock of the first Amendment is that speech may not be banned
on the grounds that it expresses ideas that may offend",  wrote
Justice Samuel Alito in the unanimous court decision.  It would appear
that satire, wit, humor and irony neuter malice and ill-will.

There is a larger cultural question looming here.  Are we
marginalizing Native Americans by using their images for team mascots
and logos?

At the heart of the matter is the dispute over the Washington D.C
professional football team's use of 'Redskins' for their logo and
trademark for the past 85 years. The major problem is that over the
years the English dictionaries have defined 'Redskins' as offensive or

As of 2013, there were over 2,000 schools using Native American names
for logos and mascots compared to around 3,000 schools the previous
fifty years.   As a result of this unrest, 28 schools have dropped
'Redskins' in the 25 years between 1988 and 2013.  14 schools have
changed their name from 2013 and 2016 alone.

The basis of the argument by the Native Americans is that the use of
Native American symbols, mascots and logos used by non-native
Americans is a form of ethnic stereotyping that promotes
misunderstanding, prejudice and as a result they fear they might be
viewed as savages.

On the other hand Social Science research shows that sports mascots
and images are important symbols with deep psychological and social
meanings that are meant to promote a toughness, competitiveness,
tradition and a championship spirit with no ill-will intended.

Even though the proponents using Native American images on logos now
have new legal footing, by way of this Supreme court ruling, it will
be interesting how they move forward without the fear of potential

Will this ruling spur backers of the Eastern Michigan 'Hurons' and
Ypsilanti 'Braves' to revisit this testy issue?   A lot will be riding
on the importance of political correctness, the opinion of alumni and
the availability of funds to re-do uniforms, mascots, flags and many
other things.

We shall see how everybody tests the waters in the near future as this
debate is carried on by a whole new generation  of sports fans locally
and worldwide.

Photo Purple Walrus Press.

1 comment:

  1. How does it harm me, a white male, if every reference to the Native American is removed from current culture? If they change the name of the Huron River to the Eagle River, is my culture diminished? I think it is one of those "be careful what you ask" for situations. We used to have two institutions in town that reminded us regularly of the Native American culture and history of this area. Now we have none. Too bad, but not for me.