Adidas announced an initiative Thursday to help high schools nationwide drop Native American mascots.
The athletic shoe and apparel maker said it will offer free design resources to schools looking to shelve Native American mascots, nicknames, imagery or symbolism. The German company also pledged to provide financial support to ensure the cost of changing is not prohibitive.
Adidas announced the initiative in conjunction with the White House Tribal Nations Conference Thursday in Washington, D.C.
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The company, which has its North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon, also said it will be a founding member of a coalition tasked with addressing Native mascots in sports.
Eric Liedtke, the company’s head of global brands who traveled to conference, said sports must be inclusive.
"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," Liedtke said in a statement to The Associated Press. "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."
According to the group Change the Mascot, there are about 2,000 schools nationwide that have Native American mascots.
The advocacy group says that about a dozen schools have dropped Native mascots over the past two years and another 20 are considering a change.
The use of such mascots has drawn increased attention and controversy in recent years. The NFL’s Washington Redskins have resisted appeals by Native American and civil rights groups to change their name and mascot.
In 2005, the NCAA warned schools that they would face sanctions if they didn’t change Native American logos or nicknames. Some colleges kept their nicknames by obtaining permission from tribes, including the Florida State Seminoles and the University of Utah Utes.
Some states have taken action at the high school level. Last month California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that prohibits schools from using the term "Redskins."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently ordered the creation a commission to study the use of Native American mascots and come up with a list of recommendations for possible legislation.
In Oregon, the state Board of Education in 2012 ordered high schools to ban such mascots or risk losing public funding. The schools have until 2017 to comply.