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In Campaign Against Racism, Team Names Get New Scrutiny

  • July 10, 2020

Avi Hopkins, a Black running back who graduated in 1994, recalled his anguish when, after scoring touchdowns, cries of, “Go Confederates,” would ring in his ears, a needling reminder that the school’s name honored the pillars of the Confederacy, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.

“It really broke me in half,” said Hopkins, who later played at the Virginia Military Institute. “I knew that my success was bringing a positive light to men who negatively impacted my ancestors.”

But much of the momentum to change mascots or team names has focused on Native American references, particularly the name the Washington team uses.

It has defenders among schools that use it, too.

Loudon High School near Knoxville, Tenn, is one. Jeff Harig, the football coach, said it was originally adopted to respectfully reflect the area’s Cherokee Nation heritage and history.

“I would like to think that we embody the positives of the Native American culture,” he said. “So for me personally, I hope we can keep the Redskins name.”

In Bucks County, Pa., Neshaminy High School also goes by that nickname (its main rival are the Council Rock North Indians). In 2013 Donna Fann-Boyle, who is Native American, filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, charging that the nickname was racist and encouraged harmful behaviors at the school, where her son graduated in 2016.

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