adidas says it will lead a push to help U.S. high schools drop the use of mascots with Native American themes that many consider derogatory.
The athletic apparel company has announced that it will offer its design resources to any high school in the United States that wants to change its logo or mascot from potentially harmful Native American imagery or symbolism. The company also will provide financial assistance to schools that want to change their identity, but cannot afford the cost of a change.
"Sports must be inclusive," says Eric Liedtke, adidas Group executive board member. "Today we are harnessing the influence of sports in our culture to lead change for our communities. adidas is proud to provide a pathway for high schools and communities who want to create new identities."
The company announced the initiative in conjunction with the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C.
Of the more than 27,000 high schools across the United States, about 2,000 of them use names that cause concern for many tribal communities, adidas says. The company's program will be voluntary for high schools interested in changing their identities.
In addition, adidas will be a founding member of a coalition to look at the issue of Native imagery and mascots in sports and work to find ongoing solutions.
"High school social identities are central to the lives of young athletes, so it's important to create a climate that feels open to everyone who wants to compete," says Mark King, president of adidas Group North America. "But the issue is much bigger. These social identities affect the whole student body and, really, entire communities. In many cities across our nation, the high school and its sports teams take center stage in the community and the mascot and team names become an everyday rallying cry."