Even if you’re not a sports fan, you’ve probably heard the name of a well known NBA basketball team called the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are known for their amazing talent and five NBA championship titles. They have many all star athletes on the the team like Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. If you like to eat fast food, you may even have seen Stephen Curry in a Burger King ad. What you may not know is that the name the Golden State Warriors holds controversy among some Native Americans. Sport teams’ names have been come under fire over the last few decades with Native Americans due to their perceived racism and offensive stereotyping. Some teams have already had logo and name changes thus far, so what’s stopping the Warriors from having this happen to them? The Warriors should have to change their name due to its inaccurate representation of Native American culture and offensive stereotyping and racism.
The use of Native American mascots is wrong because it creates false stereotypes surrounding their culture. Some people may ask why this is such a big deal or even why people are upset over a situation like this; the answer to such a question may be found by taking a look at what the National Congress of American Indians has to say on this matter: “rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples” (Ending). What they are trying to convey in this statement is that rather than honoring their people, these logos are damaging and contort the truth. Native American mascots largely began in the early 20th century in baseball. “Baseball’s Boston Braves adopted their team name in 1912. The Cleveland Indians took theirs in 1915. Scores of high schools and colleges across the country assumed these and other Indian team names in the 1920s and 1930s, even as so-called civilization regulations forbade Native Americans to speak their languages, practice their religions or leave their reservations.” (Brady). A Yale professor who specializes in Native American history and law wrote “most of the (mascot) names come out of a period largely in the mid-twentieth century when the federal government was in the process of assimilating or ‘terminating’ the tribes.” (Blackhawk). In the same era when America was trying to eradicate these American Indian tribes from society we were also coopting their likeness for white sports teams.
The history of the Warrior’s name is even more colorful when you consider their timeline and
progression from being known as the San Francisco Warriors to their current title of Golden State Warriors which occurred in 1971. What makes this timeline interesting is that it coincides with another notable event in the San Francisco area which also included Native American controversy. This uprising was known as the Occupation of Alcatraz and also occurred in 1971. These Native American occupiers stayed on Alcatraz Island from November 1969 to June 1971 to reclaim it as Indian land and to demand respect for Indian People and fair treatment. Surely the tension in the air among Native American people in the San Francisco area was definitely hot in 1971 and could have added to strong opinions about their professional basketball team’s name.
The first logo for the Warriors was Sambo-esque (a negative African-American stereotype popular in the early 20th century); the second was a headdress. The headdress was previously known as a war bonnet and is the impressive feather hat commonly seen in Western movies and TV Shows. Since 1971, however, Warriors logos have alluded to the team’s Bay Area location, and a secondary logo, with its bolt of lightning, suggests an ancient mythical figure. In reality, most American Indians don’t wear headdresses and don’t paint their faces. To make logos and teams based upon that belief is just wrong. Today many people are unaware that American Indians still exist. There are even more people who have no idea at all about their life before the appearance of the Europeans in America.
The National Congress of American Indians has fought long and hard to rid modern sports of negative Native American culture and has been successful in many of its endeavours but still has much work to do Ordinary people like you have the greatest power to influence change in areas like this. The epidemic of these oppressive names and logos needs to come to an end. Hopefully the Golden State Warriors will change their name and this article can begin that process.
Article by Jackson Slaughter & Kashtin Holly
Ending the Era of Harmful “Indian” Mascots | NCAI, www.ncai.org/proudtobe.
Brady, Erik. “The real history of Native American team names.” USA Today, 24
Aug. 2016, www.usatoday.com/story/sports/2016/08/24/
real-history-native-american-team-names/89259596/. Accessed 20 Sept. 2017.
Tracy, Marc. “The Most Offensive Team Names in Sports: A Definitive Ranking.”
New Republic, 9 Oct. 2013, newrepublic.com/article/115106/
ranking-racist-sports-team-mascots-names-and-logos. Accessed 20 Sept. 2017.