This week, a Washington state high school whose sports teams were known as the Redskins for 88 years gave final approval for a new logo with the team’s new name: The Redhawks. Why did it make the change? Because it determined that while tradition was important and change is hard, the Redskins name is disparaging and should be “retired with honor and dignity.” The story of this name change at Port Townsend High School in Washington state seems particularly relevant given that on Wednesday, the Redskins professional football team learned that it was losing its trademark protection after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the name is disparaging to Native Americans. This happened once before and the decision was later overturned, but it seems less likely that a Redskins appeal this time would come out successful. The owner of the Redskins, Daniel Snyder, has been resisting calls to change the team name. But some high schools around the country have decided that it is time to give up the Redskins name, including Port Townsend High School. After a parent complained about the Redskins name in 2012, the school formed a committee to conduct a review of the name last year. The panel’s report could in fact be a template for any other teams looking to find their way out of a Redskins controversy, the Peninsula Daily News reported. The Mascot Study Committee Report said in part:
Summary of Faith/Beliefs Findings Although respect was intended through the use of the Redskins mascot and remains a strong core belief, the Committee found a growing awareness that this belief may not be universally shared in the community. As examples, the Committee found: • The Redskins mascot was/is believed to be a source of pride, school spirit and tradition; and the Redskins mascot was/is also believed to be a matter of embarrassment and an expression of racism. • Many students, past and present, are uncomfortable with the Redskins mascot, and the high school sports teams are not universally using it as mascot. • The Committee found the belief that people outside the Port Townsend community definitely see the Redskins mascot as racist; while within the Port Townsend schools, alumni and community, people view Redskins more benignly and favorably out of pride and respect for its longstanding tradition. • Changing the mascot will be hard. Tradition is important. Yet tradition isn’t the primary consideration. There is faith and belief in the kids that they can buy into change if they are properly engaged as active participants in the process.Summary of Traditions and History Findings • In the 88 years that Redskins has been the PTHS mascot, the Committee found during its historical review that the name is a cyclical issue rising and falling in the public eye, and it is always divisive. Yet this Study Committee also found, from listening to the presenters and reading resource materials, that there appears to be room for the idea that our current traditions need not be a permanent stopping point. • The Redskin name has brought strong support from alums and boosters. Is school spirit and pride tied to the mascot name, or is it tied to the school? • Some local Native American families favor the Redskins name and don’t support changing it. Other local Native Americans favor respectfully retiring the Redskins name. There is precedent of going to Native American groups to successfully work out an issue for the well being of all. • Redskins has historically been used as a discriminatory term for Native Americans and documented since 1755 in the Phips Proclamation to describe killing quotas and scalps of Native Americans. • Since 1970 Native American Tribal leaders and civil rights groups across have recommended and been successful in retiring the Redskins as a mascot across the country.Summary of Knowledge/Current Information FindingsSummary of Findings of the presentations by PTHS coaches, teachers and students: • Students who favor the Redskins name felt that it continued inter-generational pride in the school. Students who favor retiring the Redskins name and changing the mascot believe the mascot name is derogatory and elicits a negative view of Port Townsend by folks outside our community. It seems that despite the school leadership’s best efforts negative connotations to the name continue to be shouted out at school events. • There are differing perspectives that reveal a definite line between athletics and academics in terms of support for the mascot. Teachers feel there is a double standard and feel conflicted trying to teach tolerance and respect to students while the Redskins mascot teaches a stereotypical image that is misleading. Yet it also bears noting that coaches who spoke in favor of retaining the Redskins mascot indicated they don’t want to sustain traditions if they are shown to be harmful. • Some student groups have already moved away from the Redskins mascot on their own. Examples: The cross-country team has not used the Redskins mascot in their events, and the Mock Trial Team uses a dragon as its logo. • Redskins alumni and supporters sense the inevitability of change coming related to the mascot.Summary of Findings from current studies and publications: • The Committee found that virtually all the studies and written material they reviewed suggest that negative stereotyping damages student self-image and has destructive consequences. The Committee, in its research, could not find a single contradictory study to this stated claim. • Much richer learning assets are available to our students that we should be utilizing in our social studies curriculum. One example is the new curriculum, Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State; Since Time Immemorial, promoted by the OSPI. • Nationally, school districts and teams are rapidly moving away from Native American mascots. September 28, 2012, The Washington State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction recommend the use of the term Redskins as a mascot be discontinued; however there is no legal limitation to using the term Redskins. Also in 2012, the Oregon State Board of Education adopted a ruling prohibiting all Oregon public schools, k – 12, from using Native American names.Summary of Horizon/Future Findings We are teaching kids how to be citizens in the world. The following findings, as a result of the Committee’s study, are rich with potential for equipping our kids and ourselves to confidently engage as citizens, well prepared to make a positive difference in this rapidly changing world.Findings for educational enrichment: • We should deepen our instructional program by incorporating up-dated curriculum of the history and traditions of Native Americans and access the full spectrum with input from local tribes. We should begin this before the mascot is legislated away and we become remiss in any consideration of native peoples. • The WA State Board of Education is requesting that schools discontinue the use of Native American mascots, and perhaps in the future this will become a State mandate.Findings regarding the Redskins Mascot/Logo: • The Redskins name needs to be retired with honor and dignity. • The local Native American communities stand ready to support the process of change through a variety of actions. • This is a process that takes time to complete successfully (perhaps 3 – 4 years). • The cost of change should not override the moral/ethical mandate to change the mascot. • If the decision is to change the high school mascot, several organizations have pledged financial help with the costs that necessarily would come with a change, so that funding for other necessary and important programs would not be negatively impacted.Findings toward achieving community/school unity: • The people want something to rally around that is acceptable to all parties. • The first focus on any change in mascot name ought to be about the effect and impact on our local community. • Should the Redskins mascot be retired, alums and boosters should be honored with the same respect as Native American communities. • Students should be an integral part in the choosing of a new mascot. • All interested parties should be included in choosing a new mascot name. • It is the responsibility of the Board (governance and leadership) to discourage the use of racist terminology such as Redskins on all of the school campuses.
The Redskins team name is still on the school’s website but will soon be changed and the new logo of the Redhawks, one showing a red hawk in flight and the other a head of a red hawk, will be substituted.