A multitude of professional sports teams, colleges and even high schools have ignited national debate in recent years over their offensive nicknames and imagery.
Many of these mascot controversies center around teams using caricatures or slurs that people perceive as ethnically stereotyping Native Americans; and without question, the team that has gotten the most attention for this issue is the Washington Redskins.
By CBS News Staff Writer Christina Capatides
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Over 150 civil rights organizations and Native American groups have formally demanded that the professional sports franchise change its name. On June 18, 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office voted to cancel six of the team's federal trademark registrations, concluding that they were "disparaging to Native Americans." Then on July 8, 2015, a U.S. District Court upheld that decision.
The team can still use the "Redskins" name, however, as it still has trademark protections under state and common law. And though the Oxford English Dictionary defines "redskin" as a "dated" term that is "frequently considered offensive," team owners vehemently insist that they will never change the name.
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Despite much debate and a July 2015 petition from the Little People of America, a 6,500-member group representing people born with dwarfism, the Freeburg School District decided to keep its nickname, "the Midgets."
"Once a Midget, always a Midget," Board Secretary Kim Towers told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the board meeting at which the decision was reached. "Our community is happy to be Midgets, and that's where it's at."
The high school reportedly adopted this controversial nickname after its basketball team won a David-and-Goliath basketball game in 1922. Due to these origins, the Freeburg Board of Education maintains that its use of the word "midget" is not intended to be disrespectful or offensive in any way, whether or not other people perceive it as so.
Credit: Freeburg High School website
Coachella Valley Arabs
The sports teams at California's Coachella Valley High School are known as "the Arabs;" and up until 2014, their mascot was a snarling, hook-nosed caricature of an Arab man wearing a head scarf.
The school reportedly chose this name in the 1920's to recognize the area's dependence on the farming of dates, a traditionally Middle Eastern crop. It came under fire in November 2013, however, when the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee complained that the mascot was stereotypical and thus, offensive.
In response, the school district agreed to retire the mascot seen here, as well as the belly-dancing genie who performed with him at halftime shows. The school district also announced plans to redesign the face of the Arab man in the school's logo. They, however, refused to change the school's "Arabs" nickname.
Ole Miss Rebels
The University of Mississippi's mascot has been steeped in controversy for years, due to its overt ties to the Confederacy.
Students and athletes at "Ole Miss" are still known as "the Rebels," but the university retired its long-time mascot, "Colonel Reb" in 2010. Colonel Reb was a white-goateed Southern plantation owner with a cane that many found both racist and anachronistic. Thus in 2010, he was replaced by the Rebel Black Bear, a reference to a short story by William Faulkner who was an Ole Miss student himself.
In a self-proclaimed effort to balance tolerance with tradition, the university has also discouraged the use of "Dixie" as the school's unofficial fight song and the presence of Confederate battle flags at its sports games. The name "Ole Miss" itself, however, is a reference to the nickname of a prominent slave owner's wife.
Credit: University of Mississippi
Florida State Seminoles
The NCAA has allowed Florida State University to continue using its "Seminoles" nickname and Chief Osceola as a mascot because the namesake tribe officially sanctions the university's use of both.
"The decision of a namesake sovereign tribe, regarding when and how its name and imagery can be used, must be respected even when others may not agree," NCAA senior vice president Bernard Franklin said in 2005, after the Executive Committee's decision to remove FSU from a list of colleges whose sports teams use Native American names and imagery in "hostile or abusive" ways.
Others, however, are still offended by the sight of a student dressed in a headdress and war paint, leading the FSU football team out of the tunnel every game atop a speckled horse, named "Renegade." David Narcomey, the general counsel for the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, for example, wrote an email to USA Today stating, "I am nauseated that the NCAA is allowing this 'minstrel show' to carry on this form of racism in the 21st century."
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FSU used to have a much more cartoonish Seminole mascot, named "Sammy Seminole," but the school adjusted their mascot's outfit and makeup in recent years with input from the tribe, in the hope of being more respectful of its symbols.
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Rhode Island School of Design Nads
The Rhode Island School of Design's sports teams are known as the Nads. And this thinly veiled reference to the male genitalia isn't only present in the Nads' logo. A mascot affectionately known as "Scrotie," takes to the rink at halftime during all of the Rhode Island School of Design's hockey games. The mascot's outfit is even less thinly veiled than it sounds.
Credit: RISD website
The Atlanta Braves are yet another Major League Baseball franchise that has taken heat for its Native American stereotyping. From 1966 to 1986, the team's mascot was Chief Noc-a-Homa, a man named Levi Walker who dressed up in a chief's war bonnet and face paint to perform a spirit dance on the mound before games. Walker would then sprint off toward a teepee in left field after his dance.
The Native American references don't stop there. Whenever the team pulls off an amazing play, Braves fans perform a synchronized cheer, known as "the Tomahawk chop." And though Chief Noc-a-Homa has been replaced by a walking baseball named Homer the Brave, the team recently brought back a logo that is widely considered to be the most culturally insensitive Native American stereotyping in pop culture as a whole.
The "Screaming Indian" or "Screaming Savage," as it has come to be known, was resurrected on the team's apparel in 2013 as a sort of throwback to its past. A caricature even more offensive to most Native Americans than the racial slur in the Washington Redskins' name, this throwback ignited much more than nostalgia, though.
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From 1926 to 2007, the mascot of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was Chief Illiwek. A student dressed in Sioux regalia would perform at halftime during the school's football and basketball games, as well as its women's volleyball matches.
This sparked outrage among several American Indian groups, who perceived the mascot as both perpetuating stereotypes and misappropriating the cultural rituals of America's indigenous population.
In February 2007, the school decided to keep the name of the Fighting Illini for its athletic programs, but retire Chief Illiwek as its mascot.
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At Centralia High School in Illinois, the boys' sports teams are known as "the orphans," and the girls' teams as "the Annies." Oddly enough, though, this mascot hasn't caused nearly as much controversy as you'd think.
The "Orphans" name reportedly dates back to the 1940's, when a Chicago sportswriter commented that the players on the boys' basketball team looked so ragged in their torn uniforms that they resembled a bunch of orphans, but they sure could play basketball.
After that, the name stuck, as the boys' basketball team became one of the winningest high school programs in the history of the United States, despite its lack of funds. And in a town like Centralia, Illinois, which has been hit by hardship after hardship, the local residents seem to take a certain pride in the Orphans' origin story.
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The Cleveland Indians continue to use the image of Chief Wahoo in their logo, despite criticism from Native American groups who find it offensive.
In March 2014, longtime Cleveland sports fan Dennis Brown unstitched the Chief Wahoo emblem from the sleeve of his jersey and tweeted a picture of its ghostly remains. In doing so, he inadvertently inspired a grass-roots movement on social media, in which thousands of people utilized the hashtag #DeChief to call on both the MLB and Nike to retire the red-faced caricature and stop manufacturing apparel with its likeness as a logo.
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Pekin High School Chinks
The football team at Pekin High School in Illinois may be the Dragons now; but up until 1980, it was the Chinks.
This mascot was reportedly chosen because of the town name's resemblance to the city of Peking in China. Chinese-Americans in the area, however, found the name racist and degrading.
Twice in the 1970's, the student body at Pekin High voted overwhelmingly to keep their mascot, despite the controversy it was causing. The school board finally insisted that the name be changed to "dragons" in 1980, but alumni groups continue to push back on that decision to this day.
Credit: Pekin High School website
While the Chicago Blackhawks have made notable efforts toward Native American outreach and respect -- the players don't step on their team's logo in the locker room, they've partnered with Chicago's American Indian Center to raise awareness -- many people still feel that the Blackhawks' mascot needs to go.
It's not that it contains an offensive caricature like the Braves' logo or an ethnic slur like the Redskins' name. It's that it perpetuates a long history of a revered Native American warrior being utilized as a mascot.
In 1833, Black Hawk was captured after a battle in which hundreds of his brethren were killed by an Illinois militia. He was then paraded through the streets like a mascot. Then, in World War I, the 86th Infantry changed its name to the Blackhawk Division to borrow the reputation of the noble warrior. So now, as Chicago's ice hockey team utilizes Black Hawk's likeness and reputation for their own purposes as well, many Native Americans feel that his history has been borrowed one too many times.
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University of Massachusetts
The teams at UMass Amherst used to be called the Redmen. In 1972, however, a group of Native Americans complained about the cultural stereotyping inherit in that name, and the school officially changed its mascot to the Minutemen.
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University of North Dakota
Unlike Florida State, the University of North Dakota was unable to secure the approvals it needed from the state's two namesake tribes to maintain its nickname of "the Fighting Sioux." As such, it currently has no official nickname or mascot, simply using a stylized abbreviation for North Dakota instead.
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Beginning in 1916, sports teams at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia went by the nickname of "the Indians." The teams also adopted a logo of an Indian with a knife and tomahawk to match.
In the late 1970's, the school's nickname transitioned to "the Tribe," and its logo to a depiction of a W and an M with Indian feathers beside them. And while the college has maintained that nickname to this day, it removed the feathers from its logo in 2006 when the NCAA deemed them potentially offensive.
Since that time, the college has adopted the mascot of the griffin, a mythical animal with the head of an eagle and the body of a lion.
Credit: William & Mary
The Kansas City Chiefs do not garner as much media attention or national outrage as other franchises that utilize Native American imagery and customs for sports purposes. Perhaps that's because of geography or the relatively lower profile of their franchise.
Whatever the reason, though, it is difficult to ignore that -- despite Kansas City's official mascot being the K.C. Wolf seen here -- Chiefs fans often cheer on their team in Native American headdresses and perform the Tomahawk chop after impressive plays. What's more, when the Chiefs played the Patriots in September 2014, Chiefs star running back Christian Okoye led his team onto the field by banging on a giant Native American drum.
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