Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that makes it harder to force public schools in the state to drop tribal, Native nicknames for their athletic teams.
Indian Country Today Media Network reports that many Native groups are outraged.
“[The bill] is an example of institutionalized racism in content and process,” (said) Barbara Munson, an Oneida Indian who chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association’s mascots and logos task force. She also told the Associated Press, “It’s a poke in the eye with a sharp stick to all Wisconsin tribes, and it is an act of discrimination leveled directly at our children.”
ICTMN said the bill was proposed by Republican legislators, and sat on the Republican governor’s desk for several weeks while Democrats and Native groups called it “racist.”
In a statement, Walker said that he signed the law because he didn’t want to stifle speech by preventing schools from choosing their mascots. He also said that a person’s right to speak doesn’t end just because what they say is offensive. “Instead of trying to legislate free speech, a better alternative is to educate people about how certain phrases and symbols that are used as nicknames and mascots are offensive to many of our fellow citizens.”
The new law repeals one passed in 2010 by a legislature controlled by Democrats, and signed into law by a Democratic governor, that allowed a single individual to begin a process that protested a race-based mascot, nickname, logo or team name.
- Vince Devlin