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Mascot Battle Angers Raiders, Hebrews, Spics
NEW YORK (CAP) - A call by the National Interscholastic Athletic Association for high school teams to abandon mascots based on a racial or ethnic group has met with resistance from teams as far removed from each other as the Dracester, Mass. Chieftans, the Craigsville, N.D. Red Raiders and the Muntsfield, Ala. Fighting Hebrews.
"I don't think there is anything about our nickname that is derogatory or insulting to African Americans," said Alan Manderville, superintendent of schools for Redmond, Md., whose sports teams are called the Savage Africans. "Having said that, I'm not an African American and I can't speak for how they feel. In fact, I can't recall even ever having met one."
Often the teams point to their mascots as a tribute to the ethnic group in question. For instance, many towns say that Native American mascots, like Sachems or Chiefs, are meant to honor a town's history and the early cooperation between Native Americans and settlers prior to all the genocide.
And the aforementioned Fighting Hebrews of Muntsfield say they are paying respects to the Jews who loaned the early settlers the money to found the town, before their shops were burned and they were driven from the area, according to Fred Davis, president of the Fighting Hebrew Boosters Association. Davis also noted that the potentially more controversial name of the Fighting Christ Killers was rejected by the school board by a vote of 4-3.
But that argument doesn't fly with everyone. Peter Schaffer, director of the National Anti-Mascot Coalition, pointed to a declaration made by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2001 that the elimination of such nicknames and images as sports mascots would benefit all Americans by getting rid of racial stereotypes.
"I'm fairly confident that eliminating these team names would completely eradicate racial insensitivity in this country," said Schaffer. "Except, you know, for Mel Gibson."
Schaffer has quite a fight ahead of him, though, based on the resistance of teams who in some cases have held these names for close to a century without a complaint. Dick Reynolds and Martin Cronk, coaches of neighboring football teams in Iowa called the Dangerous Spics and the Drunken Sambos, respectively, say they didn't even know their mascot names had racial overtones.
"We just thought they were catchy," said Cronk, whose Sambos went 9-1 last season, losing their final game to the Merchant, Iowa Chinamen. "The running joke is that when the Chinamen beat you, they want to play again in an hour," said Cronk with a laugh.
"Wait - was that insensitive?" he added.
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