Prejudice Against Native Americans May Rise After Sports Mascot Change


When professional or college sports teams remove a Native American mascot, anti-Native American bias increases, according to a new study.

Research has shown that Native American mascots cause racist stereotypes and undermine the self-esteem of Native youth. But what happens when a mascot is removed, as several college and professional teams have done?

“I remember seeing a lot of racist reactions to the Cleveland Indians’ decision to shut down their mascot ‘Chief Wahoo’,” said Tyler Jimenez, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington and lead author of two studies in review. Group process and intergroup relations. “This research tries to understand why some people react this way.”

It is estimated that there are now over 2,000 mascots referencing Native American terms and images in the United States, from high school to professional sports, including the Atlanta Braves, with their elated “tomahawk chop” song. renewed attention during the 2021 World Series.

For the new studies, the researchers questioned people’s attitudes about the removal of two other well-known mascots: Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo, who was phased out of uniforms and merchandising in 2018; and University of Illinois Chief Illiniwek, who dropped out in 2007. (The Cleveland Indians in the 2021 season announced a name change for the Guardians.)

The studies also explored the role of two related beliefs, namely racial color blindness – the idea that race has no bearing on decisions or events – and the threat of worldview, the perception of a individual that the functioning of society is under attack.

The research took the form of two separate online studies. The first, conducted in 2018, recruited just over half of its nearly 400 participants in Ohio and Maryland – where, at the time, two mascot-related developments had occurred.

The Washington Redskins had just announced that they would continue to use their name and mascot, while the Cleveland Indians had just retired theirs. (The Redskins ditched their name and logo in 2020 and are known as the Washington Football Team.)

The study posed participants with a fictitious legal dilemma: vandalism, committed by a Native American, at either Cleveland Stadium or Maryland Stadium; or, as a neutral scenario, vandalism at the Kansas City Royals baseball stadium linked to rising ticket prices. Each participant was randomly assigned one of the readings and was asked to recommend bail for the arrested assailant.

The results showed that Ohio residents set the highest bond in the Cleveland case – significantly higher than the other scenarios, and compared to participants from other locations. Maryland residents only set a slightly higher bond for the case in their home state than for the Cleveland or Kansas City scenarios.

The results suggest that prejudice against Native Americans may increase in areas where a mascot has been removed, Jimenez says.

The second study drew on the use of hundreds of thousands of responses from Project Implicit, an online platform for bias data collection and bias and stereotyping education, co-created by Tony Greenwald, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington. Among the many topics covered by Project Implicit are ideas and prejudices against Native Americans.

Jimenez’s study used data sets from Project Implicit participants nationwide between 2004 and 2019, and two smaller subsets: one from the year before and after Chief Wahoo’s removal from Cleveland, and another from the year before and after the withdrawal of Chief Illiniwek from the University. from Illinois.

Based on responses to questions from the Implied Project, prejudice against Native Americans increased in the year following the removal of a mascot, especially among Ohio residents following the removal of Chief Wahoo; and, following the impeachment of Chief Illiniwek, among residents not only of Illinois, but also of all other states.

This may be due, write Jimenez and his co-authors, to the fact that the NCAA, and not the team, made the decision to shut down the mascot, which affected teams across the country as it banned any team. with a Native American mascot to appear on TV.

Over time, the evidence for anti-Native American prejudice in Illinois has diminished, suggesting that a spike in such attitudes after a mascot’s removal may not last, the authors write.

The increase in racism, even temporary, shouldn’t be seen as a reason to keep Native American mascots, Jimenez says. Instead, these findings could indicate how to approach mascot withdrawal in order to mitigate racist attitudes and actions.

“For decades, native people have pushed sports teams to stop using native themed mascots. In addition to this push, our results suggest that more needs to be done, ”Jimenez said.

“In addition to removing these harmful mascots, we need to prepare for negative reactions by developing bias reduction interventions and directing resources to indigenous peoples, tribes and other organizations. “

Additional co-authors are from the University of Missouri.

Source: Washington University


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