The New Orleans Pelicans (formerly the New Orleans Hornets, formerly the Oklahoma City Hornets, formerly the Charlotte Hornets) are being criticized once again for unveiling a terrifying mascot. In the past it was the “Pierre the Pelican,” who was accused of haunting the nightmares of children and adults alike. This time, of course, it’s their ghoulish Mardi Gras-themed “King Cake Baby,” who is undeniably one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen.
But rather than suggesting that the New Orleans mascot designers are “doing it wrong,” I want to argue that they’ve really hit on something here. We live in an era dominated by the presumption that mascots should be cute, cuddly, and cartoonish, that they should appeal to young children. Why not, instead, use your mascot to strike terror into the hearts of your enemies?!
In that spirit, I say, “Well played, New Orleans, with your horrifying, soul-swallowing baby and pelican.”
In 1961, the Washington Redskins were under pressure from the Kennedy Admin to integrate and end its policy of excluding athletes of color. In response, the American Nazi party held a demonstration under the banner “Mr. Marshall Keep the Redskins White”
Don’t buy into the illusion that “Indian” mascots have ever had anything to do with “honoring” Native peoples. These mascots have always had more to do with imperialist nostalgia, a mood of nostalgia that makes racial domination appear innocent and pure, than actual honor for Native peoples.
You will notice that so called mascot die hards are more attached to a symbol than actual living real Native peoples. Don’t take LRI’s word for it, just go read the comments section of any “major” media outlet running stories on ending mascots and compare those to the comment sections when issues like KXL, fracking, or other serious issues facing Natives are discussed.
Only one person in the crowd of about 100 gathered in Knight Hall’s Eaton Theater yesterday night said that the Washington Redskins should not change their name.
He is former Redskins player Ray Schoenke, one of six panelists who shared their opinions on the issue at the “Controversy Over a Name: Washington’s NFL Team” event presented by the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism.
“I do not look upon the name as a racial slur,” he said during the panel, adding that he was a history major in college. “I studied that word. I know what it meant. It was descriptive … I’ve always been in support of the name.”
But panelist Tara Houska, a member of the Couchiching tribe and founder of Not Your Mascot, said the name has a negative effect on the self-esteem of Native American children.
“You dress up as us,” she said. “That is so offensive. How do you not understand that?”
Houska and Schoenke went head to head throughout the panel. At one point Houska asked the former offensive lineman whether he would call her a “redskin” to her face.
“Yes,” he responded. “It’s a descriptive word.”
Schoenke said Native Americans should take advantage of being part of an industry as economically powerful as the NFL and try to get Redskins owner Dan Snyder to invest money into combating some of the problems prevalent on Native American reservations, such as alcoholism, poverty and suicide.
Other panelists said they do not see Snyder helping the Native Americans economically as a feasible possibility because he has not shown any interest before.
If the name were changed, Schoenke said, it would not fix any of the problems facing the Native American population.
Houska and several Native American audience members disagreed.
Joe Horse Capture, who belongs to the A’aninin tribe, said the poor economic conditions on reservations exist because businesses in the surrounding communities aren’t investing in them.
“The Redskins [name] is one symptom of what has happened to Native Americans over the past 30, 40 years. What has happened is ‘White America’ has been brainwashed to look at Native Americans as ‘un-people.’ They’ve ‘un-peopled’ them,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why nobody is investing into Native Americans because it doesn’t really matter.”
Horse Capture said changing the name, which he called disrespectful, would be one step in the process of Native Americans gaining respect from people of other races.
Panelist Dave Owens, a WUSA-TV sports commentator, said the name should be changed because there are enough people out there who want it to be.
Owens said resistance to change comes down to power.
“Powerful people — in this case, Dan Snyder, and other owners and the commissioner — don’t want to see it happen because if a small group can do that, holy s—, what else can they possibly do?” he said.
Washington Post columnist Mike Wise said Snyder’s cooperation could help solve the conflict more quickly.
“I just wish Dan Snyder and others would put themselves in the shoes of Native Americans who say they are harmed by this,” he said. “If that happens, I think we can really have change. The fact that he is unwilling to meet with the offended and just have a conversation … bothers me to no end.”
Panelist and USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, who used to cover the team for The Washington Post, predicted the team’s name will change in the next five years.
“It’s an important cultural marker. I see it in a bigger historical view,” she said. “It will change; there is no doubt about that. This is the way history marches, and then our society moves forward.”
Last night’s debate, hosted by the Povich cCenter for sports journalism. panelists: Andy Pollin (ESPN), Dave Owens (WUSA), Ray Schoenke (former redsk*ns player), Christine Brennan (USA today), mike wise (wash post), and yours truly. top moments: 1. Older gent approaches me after “i’ve been a fan for 45 yrs, after hearing you speak, the name needs to change. i don’t care if only 5 natives are offended, it’s not right.”
2. Getting former redsk*ns player Ray Schoenke to say that he would call me a redsk*n to my face. (he didn’t)