Debate is ongoing in the United States about the appropriateness of using Native American names as mascots for sports teams, both at the professional and amateur levels. The publication Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, produced by The United Methodist Church, emphasizes that the use of names and language is a powerful instrument for good as well as for destructive purposes. It is demeaning to depict Native Americans as violent and aggressive by naming a sports team the “Braves” or the “Warriors.” This implies that all Native Americans are aggressive and violent. The use of such names is not conducive to development of a society committed to the common good of its citizenry nor to the self-esteem of Native children.
The United Methodist Book of Resolutions has contained statements as far back as 1992 that urged the denomination to repent for its role in the dehumanization and colonization of our Native American brothers and sisters. Accordingly, a Repentance Service was held during the 2012 General Conference. All United Methodist boards and agencies worked before and after that Repentance Service to ensure that their work respects the culture and values of Native people.
In light of this position on repentance, we strongly believe continued use of Native American names as mascots for sports teams is demeaning and racist. We urge all United Methodist-related universities, colleges, and schools to replace any mascots that demean and offend our Native American sisters and brothers. We also support efforts throughout our society to replace such mascots and symbols.
United Methodists have not been the sole voice on this issue. Many other communities, religious groups, and secular organizations have addressed this concern through statements, articles, protests, and resolutions. In spite of these efforts, however, sports teams still employ Native American names and symbols.
WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church is committed to the elimination of racism within the Church and within society; and
WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church is equally committed to participate actively in the continued struggle of building the true community of God where reconciliation comes together with justice and peace; and
WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church rejects the use of Native American names and symbols for sports teams and considers the practice a blatant expression of racism;
Therefore, be it resolved through this action of the General Conference, The United Methodist Church calls upon all general agencies and related organizations to be intentional about raising awareness of the harm caused by some sports teams through the use of mascots and/or symbols promoting expressions of racism and disrespect of Native American people.
See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.
From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church - 2016. Copyright © 2016 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.