The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for an end to the use of Indian names and mascots Friday, saying the practice may violate anti-discrimination laws.
The civil rights panel said Indian names and mascots could be viewed as "disrespectful and offensive" by Indian groups and can create "a racially hostile educational environment that may be intimidating to Indian students."
Although the Commission's recommendation is not legally binding, Indian activists saw it as an endorsement of their efforts to halt the use of what they consider to be derogatory slurs. They have asked school, college, university and professional athletic teams to get rid of the names and mascots.
"I think it's going to make a big difference," said Cyd Crue, president of the Illinois chapter of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media.
"I realize it's not the end of stereotypes in sports, but I think it was really important that a federal commission get involved and make a statement to move our country toward more equality and social justice."
While hundreds of athletic teams still use nicknames like Indians, Braves and Redskins, some schools are trading in their old monikers for new ones. The St. John's University Redmen are now the Red Storm, while Miami of Ohio fans now cheer for Red Hawks instead of the Redskins.
This week, the Afton, N.Y. school board voted unanimously to stop using an Indian mascot and logo for its sports teams.
But other teams say they'll stick with the names they have. Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, for one, has said he wants to keep the politically incorrect name, saying "Redskins" had only the most positive connotations for him.
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