adidas originals zx flux Adidas offers to help high schools change Native American nicknames
Sports apparel giant Adidas is offering financial assistance to high schools looking to remove “potentially harmful Native American imagery or symbolism” from their athletic mascot or logo.
The offer to help high schools change their athletic monikers comes at a time when Native American mascots at the high school to national level are facing heightened scrutiny by those who find them offensive, and schools in multiple states have removed such controversial mascots and nicknames.
In the midstate, a handful of high schools including Susquehannock, Donegal, Warwick, Eastern Lebanon County, Gettysburg Area and Susquehanna Township high schools have athletic monikers that reference Native Americans.
Sports business experts who spoke with PennLive said they agree with the initiative recently launched by Adidas, which has offered design resources and financial assistance to high schools in the United States that want to “change their logo or mascot from potentially harmful Native American imagery or symbolism.”
The cost to do that change, one expert said, revolves around the school’s size, but more so how prevalent the logo in question currently is used in school apparel, equipment and signage. Experts also said rebranding involves a physiological component that shouldn’t be ignored.
Jeremy Jordan, associate professor of Sport Management at Temple University’s school of tourism and hospitality management, said any high school seeking to change a longtime, well known mascot likely will be met “with resistance” by people most closely connected to it.
Nationally, that’s been reflected in the controversy surrounding the Washington Redskins name. In the midstate, Susquehanna University alumni recently pushed to keep Crusader as a nickname after officials decided to change the moniker because it was at odds with the school’s increasing diversity and its commitment to embracing difference.
“You have to reconnect your fan base to this new mascot this new brand you’re putting out there,” Jordan said. “That doesn’t happen automatically.”
Adidas, in its Nov. had reached out to Adidas “to discuss the possibility of changing their mascot.” Lamkin declined to provide exactly how many of those schools, if any, were from Pennsylvania.
As of last week, a couple midstate school district officials who responded to inquiries from PennLive on the campaign said they either hadn’t heard of the Adidas offer or were looking into it for informational purposes.
Susquehanna Township School District which is known as the Indians in athletics and uses a variety of logos, including one with the profile of a Native American was on the latter track, Susan Anthony, district spokeswoman, and alumni association President Dwayne DeFoor confirmed last Monday night.
“We certainly are open to looking at what Adidas is proposing,” Anthony said. “. We’re not looking into it to effect any change. We don’t know. . This would be research.”
Anthony and DeFoor emphasized that the community would need to be a part of any discussions on such a change if it was pursued. Anthony said one of the district’s strengths is its diversity, and while the district is proud of its heritage, its also “sensitive to stereotypes and perceptions.”
“As we learn more about the Adidas proposal, we will be talking with all of our stakeholders students, staff, parents, alumni, school board members and others,
to discuss who we are and who we want to be,” Anthony said.
Lamkin, however, emphasized that the Adidas initiative is a voluntary one an offer to high schools and communities who want to move forward with a change.
“Through much of our research, we learned that schools who did want to make a change had very few avenues to do so,” Lamkin said. “Our goal is to simply provide that path and enable change. So if a high school wants to change its logo and we can help, then we want to help.”
Lamkin declined to comment on Adidas’ financial investment in the campaign or exactly how much the company would invest in a particular school to change their mascot. But she said Adidas would be providing its “design services free of charge, subsidizing the cost of athletic equipment and providing additional financial support for the schools who want to make a change.”
Scott Rosner, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said if schools were to tackle such a change without Adidas’ help, it would cost in the realm of five figures.
Rosner said the cost, in part, depends on how big a high school is, but more so how prevalent or out front the imagery or logo in question is on high school property, apparel and equipment.
Changing uniforms would be the most expensive piece, Rosner said, but a school also might have to change business cards, stationary and any signage that contains the logo, which could be plastered on a press box, basketball court or football field.
“All those things have to be switched out and that gets expensive when you start adding it up,” said Rosner, who added that additional expenses could be incurred if someone threatened litigation over the change.
Additionally, Rosner said an administrator leading the charge to change a mascot would have to expend “a lot of political capital.” Such a transition could be a hot button issue, especially among alumni. School board meetings could become emotional and people could get angry with an administrator pushing the effort, he said.
“It’s not an easy thing to do in a lot of places,” Rosner said. “It’s the right thing to do, but not the easy thing to do.”
Jordan, the associate professor at Temple University, agreed, and commended Adidas for taking the lead with such a campaign, whether for altruistic or business reasons.
“I think whatever costs are incurred it’s worth it,” Jordan said. “I think it sends an important message.”
Still, Jordan also emphasized the “psychological costs” in rebranding, a process that would take time.