Politics in the Toy Box: Sports Reporters, Native American Mascots, and the Roadblocks Preventing Change

in International Journal of Sport Communication

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Erin WhitesideUniversity of Tennessee, USA

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Numerous educational institutions and professional sports teams still use Native American mascots, despite strong opposition ranging from Native American groups to the American Psychological Association. Fans, community members, and teams defend the mascots by asserting that they honor Native American peoples. Sports journalists occupy a unique location in the debate, as they regularly cover teams with such mascots and commonly refer to them in stories. In light of this ongoing debate and pressure to change reporting practices, this research used a survey to examine sports reporters’ experiences and attitudes toward Native American mascots and their beliefs about the role they themselves should take in the public debate. Results show an overall lack of support for Native American mascots, with key differences based on participant race, job title, and belief in the value that sports bring to society. Furthermore, sports journalists appear to support taking a public stand on the issue but resist the idea of eliminating mascot references from stories. The author discusses the implications of these findings in light of the growing movement to ban these mascots, as well as the evolving role that sports journalists embody at the intersection of sports and social issues.

The author is with the Dept. of Journalism & Electronic Media, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.

Address author correspondence to ewhites2@utk.edu
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