The pro-Native American sports mascots contingent took a big hit Thursday. It lost a critical partner: a major sports apparel brand.
Adidas, the world's third-most valuable sports brand, announced an initiative to help curb the use of Native American mascots in high schools. According to an AP report, Adidas will offer free design resources to those schools interested in terminating Native American mascots, nicknames, imagery or symbolism. The brand is also willing to contribute money, if necessary.
Making the announcement in conjunction with the White House Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., Adidas says it will be a founding member of a coalition tasked with addressing Native mascots in sports.
"Today's announcement is a great way for us to offer up our resources to schools that want to do what's right -- to administrators, teachers, students and athletes who want to make a difference in their lives and in their world," says Adidas head of global brands Eric Liedtke, who traveled to the conference. "Our intention is to help break down any barriers to change - change that can lead to a more respectful and inclusive environment for all American athletes."
Nike is the current jersey sponsor of the NFL. However, Adidas is a sponsor of Robert Griffin III, one of the best-known names on the Washington Redskins even as its third-string quarterback.
The group "Change the Mascot" claims there are about 2,000 schools in the U.S. that still use Native American mascots. The organization used Thursday's news to call out another brand name.
"This is a tremendous display of corporate leadership by Adidas," Change the Mascot leaders Jackie Pata, Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians, and Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in a joint-statement. "We hope that a number of companies including FedEx, whose name adorns the Washington NFL team's stadium, will step forward and follow Adidas's lead. Adidas clearly understands that in 2015, businesses cannot sit on the sideline on this issue and that they must choose which side they are on. It is inspiring to see that Adidas has chosen to be on the side of inclusivity and mutual respect and has set an example for others to follow."
"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."
Last month, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law abolishing the use of "Redskins" at the high school level, and legislation in other states is gaining momentum.
Earlier this week, Redskins owner Dan Snyder offered a list of trademarked names that could be considered more offensive than "Redskins." His team heads to New England this weekend to take on the less offensive-named Patriots.