Super Bowl advertisements are almost as important as the game itself. It is seen as a prime moment for companies to pitch their products to over 100 million viewers at one time. Every second of advertisement time is coveted and a 30 second slot can cost around $4 million. Advertisers work to nag audiences with their pricey few seconds by making advertisements that are as witty, funny, and thought provoking as possible. This past Super Bowl, however, one of the possibly most thought provoking advertisements wasn’t shown.
Proud To Be, an advertisement created by the National Congress of American Indians, was not aired at Super Bowl XLVIII. Some site claim the cost of advertising was too high; others say that the Super Bowl has rules against activism advertisements; and some claim it was never submitted. While it is unclear exactly why the advertisement did not air, the message remains the same. The advertisement shows a variety of clips and photos that depict what it means to be Native American with a voice over of words that are used as descriptors of Native Americans. At the very end of the video the voice over says, “Native Americans call themselves many things. One thing they don’t…” and then it slows down and shows a Redskins football helmet.
The advertisement was created by the National Congress of American Indians was made to promote a national campaign to end the use of the Redskins mascot for the Washington D.C. National Football League team. The campaign “Change the Mascot” was launched by the Oneida Indian Nation to both raise awareness and change accepted racist mascots, particularly the Redskins, in the sports realm.
While the Redskins is one of the most prominent example of a Mascot that is typically seen as racist, there are hundreds of sports teams with mascots that can in one way or another be depicted as racist. While there are some team mascots in the United States that do not depict Native Americans, there is a large number of sports team mascots that depict Native Americans or cultural aspects of Native Americans, many of which in negative, racist, or inaccurate ways. Are Native Americans being stacked into the role of sports mascots?
Currently Wikipedia lists twelve American universities that currently have mascots derived from indigenous peoples, over twenty professional or semi professional teams, and over 300 high school teams. Of the list of high school teams, over 200 call themselves the Indians. It seems that just as those of certain races are seem to be stacked into certain sports, such as African Americans in Basketball, stereotypical Native American symbols and people seem to be stacked into the role as mascot.
While it appears that there is stacking of Native American figures and cultural aspects, there is one big difference between that and the stacking of certain racial groups into certain sports. Players of certain races are continuing to be stacked in certain sports, but further creation of mascots representative of Native Americans has ceased. In fact, possibly because of pressures and spread of awareness, the number of Native American derived mascots has decreased. Over the past two decades, numerous high school teams have changed their Native American based mascots. In addition teams such as Stanford, Dartmouth, Eastern Michigan are just a few of the many colleges and universities that have changed their Native American related mascots. These changes however have been met with great resistance from dedicated fans and people who see the Native American based mascots as no longer racist, but rather just symbols of culture. But where should society draw the line between a cultural symbol and the perpetuation of a racist mascot?
Check out how your team’s mascot ranks as racist:
Change the Mascot Site: