For years, there has been a steady creep in discussion about the acceptability of mascot names with Native American overtones. Redskins have always been first up, but any other Native American tribe name with a prefix like “fighting” attached to it has also been sure to go, with some schools that use “Indians” and “Braves” also considering their future.Now a new mascot is being thrown into that mix, whether it should be or not: the Red Raiders.
As reported by the Lowell Sun in Massachusetts, the Lowell High School sports teams have been told to minimize the use of the school’s mascot, the Red Raider, as the school board further investigates the propriety of the Red Raider mascot.
The idea behind those questions seems to be that the Red Raider mascot refers to Native Americans charging in on a horseback raid of a settlement. While that can’t be completely ruled out, it’s far more likely that the Red Raiders were named that way as an homage to Texas Tech and other more established teams that use the Red Raiders mascot.
Here’s the full origin story of the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Lowell Red Raiders, as drawn out in an op-ed in the Lowell Sun. See if you can catch the similarities:
According to the university’s web site, Collier Parrish, sports editor of the Lubbock Morning Avalanche, gave the football team that nickname in 1936 because of its all-red uniforms and rigorous coast-to-coast schedule. Its mascot at the time was the “Red Raider,” now called the Masked Rider.
In Lowell, Red Raiders became popular during the tenure of legendary high-school football coach Ray Riddick, whose teams compiled an 182-75-14 record over 29 seasons from 1947 to 1975. Befitting its red and gray school colors, LHS was alternately called Riddick’s Raiders or simply the Red and Gray.
The most obvious difference, of course, was Lowell’s use of an Native American likeness to the Red Raiders nickname. That would have provided a clear reason to change the mascot. Instead, the school proactively removed any connection with Native American imagery.
That has left the city with two different options:
- Change the mascot
- Keep the mascot, but change the imagery so it’s neutral and as far from Native American imagery as possible.
Another Massachusetts high school — Fitchburg — has changed it’s primary logo for a large F, a model which the Sun’s editorial writer openly lobbied for.
That might be an effective solution, but only if all stakeholders don’t decide to change the entire thing first. After all, the one thing that is certain is that whichever model is the way forward, it will need community support to be successful.