Adidas is taking a bold stance in the U.S. against Native American likenesses being used in sports.
The athletic giant said it is offering “design resources” to high schools across the country that want to voluntarily change their mascots or logo from “potentially harmful Native American imagery or symbolism.” The brand also said it will provide financial aid to any schools wanting to transition so that cost isn’t an issue.
“Sports have the power to change lives,” said Adidas Group executive board member Eric Liedtke. “Sports give young people limitless potential. Young athletes have hope, they have desire and they have a will to win. Importantly, sports must be inclusive. Today, we are harnessing the influence of sports in our culture to lead change for our communities.”
November is Native American Heritage Month in the U.S., and the company made the announcement at the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., which kicked off today.
According to the Adidas release, around 2,000 high schools in the U.S. still use mascots and imagery associated with American Indian tribes.
Imagery and symbolism of the American Indian has been a hot-button issue in professional sports around the country, particularly for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, which lost protection for six of its trademarks in July because of its name.
The Oneida Nation, which is behind the Change the Name Campaign that is aimed squarely at the Redskins, released a statement today saying: “This is a tremendous display of corporate leadership by Adidas. This remarkable stand against racism by Adidas illustrates that the issue of ending the use of the R-word is not going away, but is instead gaining momentum as people understand the damaging impacts of this racial slur.”
The Redskins, however, hit back today against Adidas, arguing the company is setting a double standard by profiting off the Redskins name with its sponsorship of team quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The team released a statement saying: “The hypocrisy of changing names at the high school level of play and continuing to profit off of professional like-named teams is absurd.” They continued by predicting the brand’s next move: “It seems safe to say that Adidas’ next targets will be the biggest sports teams in the country, which won’t be very popular with their shareholders, team fans or partner schools and organizations.”
An Adidas spokesman said today’s announcement extends right now just to high schools. “But our commitment is not limited to high schools. We’re more than willing to work with teams and universities looking to make this change,” she said.