A mark of respect
The teams employ Native American imagery and nomenclature as a sign of respect and honour.
Using knights as mascots is acceptable. They are European warriors. Why would using Native American warriors as mascots be any different?
If a sports team called themselves ‘the Knights’ and had a mascot of a knight in shining armour, it wouldn’t be offensive. Knights are European warriors. But if a sports team has a Native American warrior with a spear as its mascot, the imagery immediately becomes offensive.
There are evidently double standards at play. The fact that using a historical European knight, or a Viking as a mascot is acceptable and a Native American historical warrior is not, promotes inequality and double standards. This can foster resentment towards Native Americans and increase racial tensions.
There are two things wrong with this argument. Firstly, European knights have not suffered the same level of historical marginalisation as native American tribes. White Europeans were the dominant race at the time of their existence. By contrast, Native Americans have endured a long and ugly history of state-sanctioned racism. Therefore, the parallel with the European knight is not accurate. A better parallel to the use of Native American mascots would be to imagine if sports teams used caricatures of black people that played on negative stereotypes of the appearances of the black population, then gave themselves names like the Washington n****rs. This would be unequivocally racist and offensive. There are no double standards at play. Sports teams that employ Native American names and imagery do so in an offensive way against a population that has endured centuries of oppression and marginalization. Secondly, the use of Vikings as mascots is also inoffensive because there are no Vikings still living that would take offence to this. The same is true of Roman gladiators, Ancient Egyptian mascots or mascots depicting any other extinct ethnicity or civilization. The fact that Native American people still exist means that there are people to take offence, therefore, the act becomes offensive by definition.
[P1] It is not offensive to use a knight or a viking as a mascot. [P2] Knights are European warriors and vikings are Scandinavian warriors. [P3] People take offence when a Native American warrior is depicted. [P4] This highlights a double standard.
[Rejecting P4] A knight has not endured centuries of repression. There are also no vikings still living to take offence at their depiction as a mascot.
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