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Adidas Says It Will Help Schools Get Rid of Native American Mascots

The sports apparel company will offer its design and financial services for free.

Chief Osceola and Renegade, the mascots for the Florida State Seminoles, via Wikimedia Commons user Yomasta12

There are about 2,000 high schools that use Native American mascots for their sports teams, with names like “Braves,” “Redskins,” “Apaches,” and “Chiefs.” At a White House Tribal Nations Conference held in Washington, D.C., Thursday, President Barack Obama broke down why many Native Americans find these names offensive.

“If you walk into a school the first day and you’re already feeling that stereotypes are embedded in the culture and the cheers and all that, right away that kid is feeling set apart and different,” Obama said.

To encourage high schools to at least consider changing offensive mascots, the sports apparel company Adidas is offering its support. In an initiative announced Thursday, Adidas said it would lend design and financial services to schools that want to change their mascots, but don’t feel they have the resources to do so.

[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]I don’t know if [Adidas has] made the same offer to a certain NFL team here in Washington.[/quote]

“Sports have the power to change lives,” Eric Liedtke, an Adidas Group executive board member, said in a statement. “Young athletes have hope, they have desire and they have a will to win. Importantly, sports must be inclusive.”

At the White House Conference Thursday, President Obama praised Adidas’ decision and highlighted the most contentious team name in American sports: the Washington Redskins.

“I don’t know if [Adidas has] made the same offer to a certain NFL team here in Washington. But they might want to think about that as well,” he said to laughter, reports The Guardian.

A number of American Indian organizations—including National Congress of American Indians—argue that the “Redskins” name is a racial slur. In July, a federal judge agreed with them, and canceled the team's trademark. Dan Snyder, the owner of the football team, is fighting the ruling.

On Thursday, Redskins spokesman Maury Lane responded to Adidas’ offer. “The hypocrisy of changing names at the high school level of play and continuing to profit off of professional like-named teams is absurd,” he told The Guardian. He named a number of professional teams who wear Adidas apparel and sport Native American-inspired names, including the Chicago Blackhawks and the Golden State Warriors.

The Change the Mascot organization fired back. “The Washington NFL team is trying to create a false comparison to other sports teams because slurring Native Americans with the racist R-word epithet is completely indefensible,” said spokesman Joel Barkin.

A subtle homage to the Washington team name controversy, via Flickr user Mike Licht

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