WASHINGTON — The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday called on professional sports teams to move away from using offensive names and mascots, but said the ultimate decision lies with the team’s ownership.
“The decision to change the name should come from the team’s ownership with input from the fan base,” wrote Abraham Foxman, national director of ADL.
Foxman went on to say that many of the great American sports franchises were first named in the early 20th century when “offensive caricatures and stereotypes of Jews and other minorities were widespread in the mainstream media and popular culture.”
In America’s current atmosphere, such stereotypes and caricatures are considered offensive and no longer acceptable in the mainstream.
“We have come a long way in fighting discrimination and educating about the impact of prejudice and the fact that words and stereotypes can hurt,” he wrote.
“Sports has long been a centerpiece of our culture, and today it reflects American values of inclusion, pluralism and equality in a way it did not 50 or 60 years ago,” Foxman wrote. “Numerous teams, particularly in college sports, have moved away from names that evoke negative stereotypes, particularly against Native Americans, to better reflect these values.”
Foxman said it was unfortunate that such caricatures still exist. While he understands it is not the purpose of teams such as the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians to offend, such mascots cause hurt.
“Tradition matters, but tradition should not justify the perpetuation of such names and mascots,” Foxman wrote. “A name change will not impact how a team fares on the field or in the standings.”