Lawyers Say Banning Mascot Names Is “Unconstitutional”

Lawyers Say Banning Mascot Names Is

( – Schools often like to choose a mascot that promotes strength, bravery, and American heritage in some way. For many schools, that meant borrowing a name from a Native American tribe in the region or choosing a more generic option like the Warriors, Indians, or Redskins. However, a recent Colorado law vastly limited the mascot choices related to Native Americans, and one group is trying to get the law overturned for being unconstitutional.

Colorado’s SB21-116 Law Prohibiting American Indian Mascots

Colorado legislators voted on the new state law to prohibit American Indian mascots this summer, and the governor signed it into law on June 28. The bill prohibits public schools of any kind from using an American Indian mascot unless it has a written agreement with a tribe allowing for its use. The law allows the tribe to revoke the usage of their name at any time.

If a school does not comply with the law, it’ll face a fine of $25,000 per month if it continues to use the mascot after June 1, 2022. However, schools may have a chance to keep their mascots if a lawsuit from the North Dakota-based nonprofit Native American Guardian’s Association (NAGA) successfully works its way through court.

NAGA Sues Colorado Governor and More

On Tuesday, November 2, NAGA filed a lawsuit against Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) and other members of his administration. It emphasized that while the organization opposes any mascot performers “that mock Native American heritage,” it believes the law should allow “culturally appropriate Native American names,” such as the Warriors.

For example, Lamar High School formerly had a mascot named “Chief UghLee,” but has since changed its mascot to Lamar Savages using Native American imagery. Right now, the school hopes the NAGA lawsuit will be successful so it can continue using this name. Similarly, the Atlanta Braves mascot used to be “Chief Noc-A-Homa,” which many people thought was disrespectful to Native American culture. Since then, the Braves have used “Homer the Brave” and, since 2018, a fuzzy creature named “Blooper.”

Respectable Native American Mascots

Right now, at least 25 Colorado schools must change their names or get written permission from a tribe to use their name and mascot by next summer to comply with the law. However, two schools have already done so, including Strasburg and Arapahoe High School, which celebrate tribes near their campus.

Some American Indians believe this law gives them more ownership over how mainstream culture portrays their heritage, while others see it as having their presence in society diminished and removed. Hopefully, there can be a healthy balance of cultural preservation and respect when it comes to Native American heritage moving forward.

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