The issue of both professional and amateur teams using offensive native American nicknames as mascots is not a new one. Still, unlike professional teams that adamantly refuse to drop controversial nicknames, more high school programs are beginning to take the high road and drop the names that insult native American groups.
As pointed out by Washington Post blogger Dan Steinberg, the latest school considering abandonment of its longtime "Redskins" moniker is Sanford (Maine) High, which is currently weighing a complaint from the Maine Indian Tribal State Commission.
According to the Associated Press, Sanford is the final school in Maine that uses the term "Redskins" as the mascot for its athletic programs. While the AP suggested that a slight majority of students and school officials may favor keeping Redskins as the Sanford mascot, the school is still considering dropping the mascot to avoid further upsetting the state's native American population, and the local newspaper -- the York County Journal Tribune -- has openly advocated dropping "Redskins" for a more modern, less offensive nickname.
The decision to reconsider the school's mascot has split the town along two lines, with affiliated Facebook pages both supporting and rejecting the mascot attempting to gain as many members as possible. As of Tuesday afternoon, the "Sanford DOESN'T need a new mascot" group had 266 members while the "Sanford Needs a New Mascot" group had 176 members.
If Sanford does drop the Redskins name, it'll be the third school to do so in the past six months, following Red Lodge (Mont.) High, which dropped the Redskins mascot after receiving a complaint from the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council in February and Wiscasset (Maine) High, which had the nickname stripped from its teams by Maine Regional School Unit 12's school board.
Furthermore, Sanford's elimination of the Redskins moniker is also a watershed moment for another reason: It will leave the entire New England region free of any schools with the Redskins mascot. According to MaxPrep's searchable mascot database, only six schools above the Mason Dixon line on the East coast will still use the mascot, with four in New York (Canisteo-Greenwood High, Cooperstown High, Lancaster High and Oriskany High) and one in Pennsylvania (Neshaminy High).
There are two remaining New England schools who use the mascot "Redmen" -- Killingly (Conn.) High and Tewksbury (Mass.) Memorial High -- while there are two New York schools that still use that nickname; Central Square Moore High and Islip Terrace East Islip High.
While the decision to change Sanford's mascot is hardly final, it is yet another step toward eradicating mascot names that are largely seen as offensive to native Americans. Outreach from both the Maine Tribal State Commission and North Cheyenne Tribal Council are just the latest, more organized attempts from the larger native American community to try and rid schools in their areas from using offensive mascots.
Whether or not native American-based mascots should be eliminated from school sports is a seething debate that isn't going to go away, whether the Redskins handle disappears or not. Still, as more and more schools steadily retreat from defending its use, the NFL Redskins will become an even lonelier outlier in the once large collective of athletic teams which used the offensive nickname.