Utah high school announces new mascot following backlash

FILE – In this July 28, 2020, file photo, Native American advocate Carl Moore sits next to Native American imagery painted along a walkway which leads from the Bountiful High School parking lot up to the football field in Bountiful, Utah. A primarily white high school near Salt Lake City began replacing its hotly-contested Braves mascot after nearly 70 years. Principal Aaron Hogge announced on Friday, April 9, 2021, that the Redhawks would become Bountiful High School’s mascot starting next fall. The school’s new logo will be released sometime between now and the new school year. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

By SOPHIA EPPOLITO Associated Press/Report for America

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A mostly white high school near Salt Lake City revealed its new mascot Friday that will replace its contentious Braves mascot, as school and professional sports teams nationwide face increasing backlash about using Native American names and symbols.

The Redhawks will become Bountiful High School’s mascot starting next fall, Principal Aaron Hogge announced. The school is still designing its new official logo.

He said the red-tailed hawk is the most common hawk species in North America and “is one of the biggest birds of prey found in the mountains above Bountiful.”

The Redhawks name was selected after the school received over 100 suggestions for a new name, Davis County School District spokesperson Chris Williams said. He said the most frequent name suggestion was “Brave” but that was rejected because it was too similar to the existing mascot’s name.

Redhawks beat out three other nickname finalists — Bears, Lightning/Bolts or Trailblazers/Blazers.

Calls for Bountiful to change the name mounted last summer during a nationwide push for racial justice following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the decision by Washington’s NFL team to drop its Redskins name.

Administrators began reviewing the mascot in early August and created a committee to identify and discuss concerns by people wishing to remove it. They sought input from representatives of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation based near Bountiful, students, faculty and staff and community members.

It’s not clear how many high schools across the U.S. have built their sports team imagery around Native Americans, but advocates have said the number is in the hundreds and down significantly from decades ago.

At the college level, Native American mascots seen as “hostile and abusive” by Indigenous communities have been banned in championship play since 2005.

Some colleges, including the University of Utah and Florida State University, have agreements with local tribes to use their names and imagery.

Professional sports teams that have Native American-themed names and mascots increasingly are facing backlash, including baseball’s Atlanta Braves and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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