- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Citing a perceived need to be (here we go again) "more inclusive," Montgomery County School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast has bought into the silly idea that sports teams with Indian-themed names are inherently offensive and should be banned. The Montgomery County School Board yesterday voted overwhelmingly to formally ban the use of such names even though at least one school, Poolseville High, voted last spring to keep their Indian mascot.

Mr. Weast wrote in a letter released this week that he is in favor of "school sponsored representations … that are inclusive, bias-free and provide a welcoming climate for all." As if this bureaucratic cant had anything to do with the question at hand: Is it either discriminatory or demeaning to use such terms as "Braves," "Chiefs," "Warriors," or "Indians" as names for sports teams? The names themselves are certainly not derogatory so how is their usage in such a positive manner offensive? Answer it isn't.

Readers of this newspaper will recall that the war cry was issued by a small band of agitators on a state-subsidized entity called the Commission on Indian Affairs and led by one Richard Regan a Montgomery County resident and Lumbee Indian. Mr. Regan had put pressure on state officials, including Maryland Governor Parris Glendening, to put the kibosh on the use of Indian names whether actually offensive or not. "My concern is that local communities are being portrayed as negatively stereotyping Native Americans when that is not the case," said Sharon W. Cox, an at-large member of the Montgomery County School Board. "I believe that Mr. Regan and the folks he associates with are trying to create grassroots support for a change that will eventually impact the national teams," she added. This seems an entirely reasonable assumption.

Ultimately, the issue comes down to whether a handful of activists can define pretty much anything they wish as "hurtful" or "not inclusive" and force the wider community to accede to their demands. By any reasonable standard, the use of these Indian terms as mascots for sports teams is, if anything, laudatory a tribute to the best qualities of American Indians represented in athletic terms. Team names such as those at issue in this dispute are uniformly positive and it is disgraceful for Mr. Regan and his fellow-travelers to imply otherwise. And let's not forget that, in addition to accusing Montgomery County high schools of implicit racism, this is also forcing these cash-strapped schools to divert large sums of money $80,000 at Poolesville High alone, according to estimates to change team uniforms and scoreboards, paint over murals and redo gym floors where the likeness of the Indian-themed mascots are currently present. Surely that $80,000 could have been better spent. The racial agitators will probably think otherwise.


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