Board of Ed Outlaws Native American Mascots in NY, What’s Next for Mahopac?
The NFL and MLB have become battlegrounds for a social debate that has gotten very loud over the last decade.
The question is whether Native-American mascots are offensive? As society changes and public opinion sways, the question is being asked on all levels of athletics. Recently, the New York State Board of Regents simplified the issue for school districts throughout New York this week. According to ABC 7, the board voted unanimously to prohibit the use of Native American themed images, names and mascots.
Team mascots and logos are expected to be changed by the end of the 2024-2025 season. Any schools who do not comply with the ruling will be denied state funding. This mascot ban will impact dozens of schools in New York State, including the Mahopac Indians.
UPDATE: We spoke to former Carmel/Mahopac Town Supervisor Ken Schmitt on the I-95 Morning Show (2/27/23). He told us he strongly opposes the name change and it will be costly.
By My Count
I raised questions about this in a December 2022 article titled: "Do You Think Mahopac High School Will Change it's Nickname from the Indians?" In the article, I ran two informal polls, asking readers to share their opinion on two questions, will Mahopac change it's mascot and are Native American mascots offensive. These are the results as of (4/19/23).
Do you think Mahopac Will Change it's Mascot?
Yes - 55.37%
No - 44.63%
Do You Find Native American Mascots Offensive?
I Do - 70.94%
I Do Not - 20.51%
I Don't But I Could Understand if Native Americans do - 8.55%
The Change is Happening
The mascot name change is no longer a question, it's a certainty. In January 2023, The Examiner News published an article laying out the framework for the process. According to the report, the name change will be worked on by the "Mascot Selection Committee" which is made up of around 60 individuals "representing diverse perspectives in the community."
That committee will be responsible for selecting a field of options to present to the students. Those options will then be shared with Mahopac students ages K-12th grade and put to a vote. According to LoHud, one of those selection committee meetings took place this week. The LoHud report states:
Mahopac students, parents and community members met privately in the high school cafeteria in the second of three meetings to select finalists for Mahopac’s new mascot. Students from kindergarten through 12th grade will vote on the finalists in June.
Mahopac Superintendent Christine Tona reportedly denied LoHud access to that meeting. The winner will be announced in June and the mascot logo will be rolled out in September.
A Town Voice
I reached out to former Carmel/Mahopac Town Supervisor Ken Schmitt for his reaction to the impending transition. This is what Schmitt had to say:
"Hey Lou, I strongly believe there's a disconnect between the NYS Board of Regents and the people. The threats of withholding State aid funding ( our money )to School Districts that have Indian mascots is ridiculous and nothing more than extortion tactics. Mahopac people are proud of our strong Indigenous history and culture. We've honored the local Indian tribes for many years as the Mahopac Indians. Any notion or belief that we are somehow discriminating or disrespecting indigenous people is completely absurd and ridiculous."
Scmmitt was the town's highest elected official for 14 years. After a few years on the sidelines, Schmitt has decided to run again and has already begun the process. The former Supervisor told us he submitted his Republican Nomination Petitions, collecting 715 signatures.
In the Name of Change
The move for a new mascot has been years in the making. A 2019 Change.org petition organized by a 2012 Mahopac grad named Daniel Ehrenpreis has nearly 8,000 signatures as of today. One petition signer named Ingrid left a petition comment in 2022 that read:
"It is embarrassing that at this point, the district leaders have to be pushed this hard to change the name. They are perpetuating backward and racist thinking."
A Way to Honor Those Who Came Before
Soon after the 2019 petition began to circulate, a counter-petition made the rounds according to the Mahopac Central School district Wikipedia page. The folks in favor of the mascot, argued the name 'Indians' was originally chosen to honor early Native Americans in the region.
It's worth noting that Mahopac Indians apparel is currently on sale for 25% off on the Spirit Shop. It's not immediately clear if that sale has anything to do with the name change.
What About the New Name?
I'm not 100% sure how this move will be received in Mahopac but it will be interesting to see how the town handles the change. The real question is, will they come up with a cool new name or blow it? There are professional marketing and PR people that can't get this type of thing right.
I'm sure the NFL team in Washington hired top-level PR people and marketing advisors when they transitioned away from the Redskins. The absolute best, those brilliant, well paid minds could come up with was "the Commanders!?" That is easily one of the worst names in pro sports. Cleveland's baseball team also spit the bit with "the Guardians."
My bet is that the children of Mahopac will do a better job with this transition than the multi-billion dollar pro sports franchises that have gone through it.
I humbly ask the students of Mahopac to consider the following options:
Mahopac Machine - It's gritty, tough and no one else has it. For the logo you could use a tank.
Mahopac Mailmen - This is a job that once carries great prestige in our country and it's almost completely dead. Let's let our Mailmen and Mail Ladies have their day.
Mahopac Murder - Slow your role, relax. A murder is a large group of crows and that is what I am talking about. How cool would a football helmet look with a bunch of menacing crows on it.
Mahopac Mustangs - You probably already have that one.
Mahopac Malarkey - Malarkey is just fun and funny.
Mahopac Mugwump - A Mugwump is a person who is independent or neutral in their political views. You can smell the irony on this name.
Mahopac Mermaid - This is a big change, big risk, big reward change. In my opinion, you would have to go with a completely different color scheme, moving away from yellow and blue but if we're doing this, let's do it.
Mahopac Centaurs - The Centaur is half man and half horse. You mean to tell me a human with horse legs is not going to dominate at field hockey?
Mahopac Phoenix - This is my favorite mythical creature. The phoenix is a symbol or rebirth, immortality and resurrection. The phoenix rises from the ashes, it cannot be kept down.
In case you could not tell, I'm way into alliteration. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
The Worst Name Change Ever - WCSU
Whenever the matter of mascot name changes comes up, I feel it is my duty to highlight and underscore the worst mascot name-change in history. It's not so much the mascot as the rationale for the change. In April of 2022, Western Connecticut State University changed their mascot from Colonial Chuck to the Wolves.
The reason the University provided was that Chuck was a Minuteman soldier. The Minutemen were soldiers from the Revolutionary War and that was "too violent" a time period in our country's history.
I s--- you not!
I would never s--- you on this
You're not being s---ted.
This is the absolute truth. I said it then and I believe now, WestConn should be embarrassed of the move and I intend to bring it up every chance I get. Apparently, I was in the minority on this because I started a Change.org petition to get them to change it back.
It's been a full year since and the petition has 60 signatures. I realize that is a horrendous number and I have no real support but I'll go to my grave screaming about how ridiculous that decision was.