Scared HoopsMy volleyball team does a summer common read – something challenging yet inspiring – to help focus our thoughts on the team process. Several years ago, the team chose Phil Jackson’s “Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior,” published in 1995. Phil’s lessons rang true to me as a coach, a mother, and as a spiritual warrior. I highly recommend the book to any fan of the #Sportual.

The fact that both of Phil’s parents were ministers combined with his influence of the North Dakota culture, including his four years as a Fighting Sioux at the University of North Dakota gave Phil a great respect for the Native American People, their history, their culture, and their spirituality. During a visit back to the campus at North Dakota, he talked about peace and posed two questions to the audience, “What is gained by keeping the Fighting Sioux nickname? What do you lose by changing the name? I propose in this year of change we do the right thing,” Jackson said. His words were followed by clapping and a standing ovation by some in attendance.

Currently, North Dakota is without a mascot, during a period of discernment for a new identity. And meanwhile, in another collegiate naming story, the University of Utah just reached a pact with the Utes, in a seeming win-win for both.

These are just a few examples of the ongoing issue of the American practice of naming sports teams with Native American themes, but these two were intercollegiate and are being addressed by states and the NCAA. However, the history and wealth behind professional teams’ refusing to evolve is even more offensive.  The Cleveland Indians,  The Washington Redskins,  The Atlanta Braves, The Kansas City Chiefs, and The Chicago Blackhawks are all clinging to images that are used to erase the history and culture of over 30,000 individual nations in North America. This is a spiritual issue. This is misappropriating sacred images of native cultures in the name of corporate greed. It’s time we all scream “NO MORE.”

Sportuality talks about “Laughable Mascots” in the chapter on Humor. Mascots can bring fans together and increase the enjoyment of the game for sure, like the ones mentioned in the book: The Stanford Tree, Nebraska’s Lil’ Red, and the San Diego Chicken. It’s time to retire Chief Wahoo and his friends. Robert Roche, executive director of the American Indian Education Center, is adamant the Cleveland Indians should abolish the logo permanently. “The issue is simple,” Roche said. “We are not mascots. I’m nobody’s mascot. My children are not mascots. It mocks us as a race of people. It mocks our religion.” (AP)

Sportuality seeks to instill community values – those that bring all people together rather than dividing. Recall that “community” means “to have charge of together.”  When this nation awakens and decides to live from the holistic paradigm of “all is one” then each of us will be appalled at the use of native language, symbols, and imagery to sell apparel and tickets to professional sport contests. We can no longer afford to “play Indian.” I think Phil Jackson would agree.

Other resources: National Museum of the American Indian, Reid Gomez, Visiting Professor of Ethnic Studies at Kalamazoo College

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