Sports equipment giant Adidas has announced the launch of a new initiative that would help to bring an end to the use of Native American mascots in high schools across the United States.
The German company said free design resources will be offered to any school looking to stop the use of Native American mascots, nicknames, or imagery. The athletic shoe and apparel maker said that financial support would be given to schools to cover any costs incurred by these changes.
"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, president of adidas Group North America, said in a press release.
The company plans to become a founding member of a coalition that will discuss the use of Native American mascots in sports. The group Change the Mascot reports around 2,000 schools across the nation that currently use Native American mascots. The group went on to say that the mascots have been dropped by over a dozen schools over the last two years, with 20 more schools considering a change.
"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," said Eric Liedtke, Adidas head of global brands.
The announcement was made by the company in conjunction with the White House Tribal Nations Conference held this week in Washington, DC. Adidas executives were in attendance, as were leaders from the 567 federally recognized tribes.
The use of such nicknames have drawn national attention recently, with appeals by Native American and civil rights groups being resisted by the NFL's Washington Redskins. The groups are seeking a name and mascot change from the team.
Colleges were asked to change such names and logos in 2005 by the NCAA, who warned that sanctions would follow for those schools who do not comply. However, some colleges, such as the Florida State Seminoles and the University of Utah Utes, obtained permission from tribes to continue the use of the names.
Last month California became the first state to ban the "Redskins" name from being used at public high schools for team names or mascots through a bill signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. Four schools in the state were still using the name. Those schools have until January 1, 2017 to put a new name in place.
Recently, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper ordered the creation of a commission that would look into the use of Native American mascots and put together a list of recommendations to be offered for legislation.
In 2012, the Oregon State Board of Education banned the use of Native American mascots at high schools. Schools have until 2017 to comply or they face losing public funding.