Utah high school ditches mascot offensive to Native Americans

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 | Photo by Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, St. George News

BOUNTIFUL, Utah — 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.

Lemiley Lane, a Bountiful junior who grew up in the Navajo Nation in Arizona, poses for a photograph at Bountiful High School, July 21, 2020, in Bountiful, Utah. | Photo by Rick Bowmer, Associated Press, St. George News

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.

In the most recent Utah legislative session, a bill to discourage Native American mascots failed.

Cedar High in Cedar City is also still dealing with both supporters and opponents of the 2019 decision to change the school’s Redmen mascot to Reds.

File photo of the marquee sign on Cedar High School campus shows its “Redmen” mascot, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 15, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards. St. George News / Cedar City News

Administrators at Bountiful 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.

Written by SOPHIA EPPOLITO, The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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