One of the biggest athletic shoe and apparel makers, Adidas, recently announced it will provide free design resources to any US schools looking to shelve offensive “Indian” mascots, nicknames, imagery or symbolism.
The German based company is also putting up funding to provide financial support to offset the cost of rebranding their teams.
Adidas made the announcement at the White House Tribal Nations Conference last Thursday in Washington which included leaders from the 567 federally recognized tribes.
Adidas’ North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon, also said it will be a founding member of Change the Mascot, a coalition that will be dedicated to removing insensitive Onkwehonwe mascots in sports. There are an estimated 2,000 schools in the USA that have Native American mascots.
The group has influenced about a dozen schools to drop native mascots in the USA over the past two years and another twenty are considering a change, according to the group’s statistics.
Adidas head of global brands, Eric Liedtke, said “Today’s announcement is a great way for us to offer up our resources to schools that want to do what’s right — to administrators, teachers, students and athletes who want to make a difference in their lives and in their world,” Liedtke said in a statement to The Associated Press.
“Our intention is to help break down any barriers to change — change that can lead to a more respectful and inclusive environment for all American athletes.”
The voluntary program would give schools access to the Adidas’s design team for logo redesign and uniform design across all sports.
The new initiative only involves high schools. The program does not involve its other agreements or sponsorships with professional or college teams, or with individual athletes.
“We are committed to continuing a dialogue to look at the issue of native images in sports and work to find solutions. Ultimately, it’s the teams, athletes, coaches and fans who decide what changes they want to make. And if they want to make a change and we can help, then we want to help,” according to a company spokesperson.
Long established professional teams like NFL’s Washington Redskins have resisted appeals by Native American and civil rights groups to change their name and mascot. The cost of doing so would be enormous. In October, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that prohibits schools from using the term “Redskins.”
Some tribes, including the Florida State Seminoles and the University of Utah Utes have granted permission to continue to use their names.
In Oregon, in 2012, the state Board of Education ordered high schools to ban such mascots or risk losing public funding. The schools have until 2017 to comply.
Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter applauded Adidas’ move.
“We hope that a number of companies including FedEx, whose name adorns the Washington NFL team’s stadium, will step forward and follow Adidas’s lead,” he said in a media release.
“Adidas clearly understands that in 2015, businesses cannot sit on the sideline on this issue and that they must choose which side they are on. It is inspiring to see that Adidas has chosen to be on the side of inclusivity and mutual respect and has set an example for others to follow.”
“We hope that a number of companies including FedEx, whose name adorns the Washington NFL team’s stadium, will step forward and follow Adidas’s lead.” Eric Liedtke, Adidas head of global brands “Our intention is to help break down any barriers to change — change that can lead to a more respectful and inclusive environment for all American athletes.’ Eric Liedtke, Adidas head of global brands