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Adidas offers to help schools drop Native American mascots

Activist hope Mass. schools take advantage

The Tewksbury Memorial High School team is called the Redmen.Matthew Healey

Activists are hoping that Massachusetts high schools will take advantage of a new Adidas initiative that seeks to help high schools transition away from their Native American-themed mascots.

The German sneaker company announced Thursday that it would offer design resources and financial assistance to any schools that wish to create new identities and rebrand themselves.

Approximately 40 high schools in Massachusetts still use Native American mascots, nicknames, or logos, according to Peter Sanfaçon, founder of the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition.

Sanfaçon praised Adidas for launching the nationwide initiative.

“It’s a great step toward progress and addresses one of the many reasons/excuses supporters clamor on about,” Sanfaçon said in an e-mail.


How many schools actually decide to participate remains to be seen.

Amesbury High School is known as “Home of the Indians,” and there are no plans to change that, according to the school’s principal, N. Roy Hamond. If any changes were to be made in the future, it would be “a community decision,” he said.

Middleborough High School is also maintaining the status quo. Mike Perry, head of the athletic department, said the school’s teams have been called the Sachems for decades and there are no plans to change that.

There’s never been an issue with the name, he said, but there have been “on and off discussions” about the logo, which appears in different variations. Perry said the main logo used on high school uniforms is a capital letter “M,” but some teams and booster clubs also use logos that depict the head of a Native American.

Perry said the offer from Adidas to help schools switch to new, less offensive mascots could be helpful to schools interested in rebranding themselves, but the devil will be in the details.

“I’m naturally a little leery of a sporting goods company jumping in because of past experiences,” Perry said in an e-mail.


He said some companies will design logos but then make you purchase uniforms from them or pay a fee to use the logo on other makers’ uniforms.

“I would obviously have to do a lot more research before jumping in, but it sounds like it has the potential to offer positive support to schools transitioning to another mascot/nickname,” he said.

According to Adidas, as many as 2,000 high schools in the United States use names or imagery that might be deemed offensive and have raised concerns among tribal communities. The new logos are intended for Adidas-made uniforms, the company said.

Mark King, president of Adidas Group North America, said high school 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.”

“But the issue is much bigger,” King said in a statement. “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.”

High schools interested in changing their mascots and participating in the Adidas program can send an e-mail to mascotchange@adidas.com for more information.

As of Friday, 35 schools had expressed interest, Adidas spokeswoman Maria Culp said.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.