to create a climate that feels open to everyone who wants to compete."
Adidas on Thursday announced a new initiative to help high schools
change "potentially harmful" Native American mascots.
sports apparel company, which has North American headquarters in
Portland, Oregon, will allow schools to volunteer for the program
and will provide financial assistance for mascot and nickname changes
"to ensure the transition is not cost prohibitive," it said in a
release. Schools that want help changing mascots can email Adidas
to enroll in the program.
The initiative's launch is timed to coincide with the White
House Tribal Nations Conference, which starts Thursday in Washington,
D.C., and will include representatives from as many as 567 federally
"High school social identities are central to the lives of young
athletes, so it's important to create a climate that feels open
to everyone who wants to compete," Mark King, the president of Adidas
North America, said in a statement.
"But the issue is much bigger," the statement continued. "These
social identities affect the whole student body and, really, entire
communities. In many cities across our nation, the high school and
its sports teams take center stage in the community and the mascot
and team names become an everyday rallying cry."
As many as 2,000 high schools use Native American mascots and
imagery, which tribes and activists have long argued are harmful
to communities and students because they perpetuate negative stereotypes.
The American Psychological Association and American Sociological
Association have both recommended changing such mascots because
of the effects they can have on native and non-native students.
Universities and high schools have spent decades weighing the
appropriateness of Native American mascots, with many deciding to
That movement has reignited in recent years as activists renewed
their fight for Washington's NFL team to change its name and mascot.
At least eight high schools across the country have dropped
"Redskins" names in the last four years. In 2012, Oregon passed
a law to force schools to change Native American mascots without
tribal approval, and in October, California enacted a law that bans
high schools there from using "Redskins." Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
(D) recently formed a task force to review the use of such mascots
in his state.
Last month, the U.S. Department of Education released the findings
of a year-long tribal listening tour, during which Native American
students told federal officials that states and school districts
should consider changing the mascots because of the harm they can
Ray Halbritter, the representative of the Oneida Indian Nation
of New York who helped launch the Change The Mascot campaign to
target Washington's NFL team, praised Adidas' announcement in an
email to The Huffington Post.
"This is a tremendous display of corporate leadership," Halbritter
said, adding that he hopes companies that sponsor Washington's team
will take notice and follow suit.
"Adidas clearly understands that this issue is about picking
which side you are on," he said. "They are choosing to be on the
side of inclusivity and mutual respect and have set the bar for
other businesses to now follow."