Senate bill aims to remove school nicknames

The Upper Peninsula is home to quite a few school nicknames that, under a new bill, will be rendered discriminatory or offensive.

Eskymos, Braves, Redmen, and more of these school nicknames may soon find themselves on a list of race– or ethnicity–based classifications, according to Michigan Senate Bill 646. The bill aims to ban certain team names and logos based on ethnicity. The bill would affect hundreds of schools, who have had their mascots and nicknames for decades. The proposal isn’t exactly sitting well.

“Those that would accuse us of maybe having ill feelings or looking down upon something because of a mascot…this makes no sense to me,” said Senator Tom Casperson.

If the bill passes, starting January 1st of 2019, schools with a race or ethnicity based classification would need to change everything, their name, logo, mascot, and anything that would directly correlate with an identity deemed offensive by the Michigan State Board of Education. That list may include names that, even at their origin, bore no resemblance to any race or organization.

“At least one of the administrators from Marquette had attended Harvard, and Harvard, scarlet red, came back, and a nickname Redmen came about from the scarlet red sweaters. They chose the scarlet red as the school color for Marquette. So Marquette was the Redmen…there wasn’t a school logo attached,” said Marquette Area Public Schools Superintendent Bill Saunders.

Marquette has recently moved away from the old Indian head logo and has since displayed the block “M.”

“We want to be considerate of any of the different minority groups, certainly our Native American population,” said Saunders.

Another school that would be affected is Escanaba High School, but the nickname Eskymo had no racial or ethnic roots either.

“It was really a play on words that got it started. Escanaba…Esky, and somebody added ‘M’ to it. And when they did that they came up with Eskymos, and our saying up here is the ‘Mighty Mighty Eskymos’ so it’s something we look up to, we don’t look down on anything like that,” said Casperson.

Senator Ian Conyers, who sponsored the bill, says that schools should move past the time when schools were named after ethnic groups. Those that choose not change to would risk losing funding from the Michigan Department of Education…schools that chance under the bill might risk losing their heritage.