NAJA, NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA, and SPJ demand end to racialized mascots in media

The Native American Journalists Association joins the National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association, and Society of Professional Journalists to call for immediate discontinuance of race-based sports mascots in media

NAJA is joined by NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA, and SPJ to reiterate its demand for the immediate and permanent discontinuance of racialized sports mascots by news outlets. This discontinuance should include clear policy development and implementation, that clarifies the harm they cause, and the practical editorial methods to avoid their use on all platforms.

The continued portrayal of racialized mascots in news media directly violates fundamental tenets of professional journalism. The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics makes clear that journalists should act to minimize harm:

“Consider the long-term implications of the extended reach and permanence of publication. Provide updated and more complete information as appropriate.”

A growing body of scientific research clearly demonstrates the harm caused by the portrayal of race-based mascots in media. The harm includes negative impacts on the self-esteem of Indigenous youth, increased prejudicial attitudes toward Indigenous people, and increased stereotyping of other minority groups.

This evidence has been ignored by media outlets to the detriment of Indigenous people, and media outlets owe it to their organizations, readership, and society to do better. The socially responsible remedy to this grave injustice is to cease any further dissemination of sports mascots, nicknames and logos.

This policy change is long overdue. NAJA has long held the stance that Indigenous-themed mascots and team names inherently reinforce racist attitudes and behaviors. They perpetuate stereotypes and act as a replacement for the accurate and authentic portrayal of history, culture and lived experience. This replacement “disappears” contemporary Indigenous lives in the broader fabric of society, rendering it more difficult to address the life or death issues confronting many Indigenous communities.

Multiple professional organizations have recognized the negative impact racialized mascots have on the mental health and wellbeing of Indigenous people. The American Psychological Association has affirmed that Indian mascots establish unwelcome and hostile learning environments for Indigenous students and foster negative stereotypes of Indigenous people.

In 2014, the US Patent and Trademark Office canceled trademark registrations that it deemed disparaging to “a substantial composite” of Native Americans. Webster’s New World College Dictionary has also labeled the Washington NFL team name as a racial slur.

NAJA demands that all media outlets treat these images, names and logos in the same manner as other racist terms and images and cease using them. We encourage our non-Indigenous colleagues to refer to the SPJ Code of Ethics, the AP Stylebook and NAJA for guidance when presented with an editorial choice to publish or broadcast racialized sports mascots.

For further guidance and to access research, please refer to the Reading Red Report page on the NAJA website.


  • Joseph Borba Hall
    Posted July 11, 2020 7:08 pm 0Likes

    Dear Naja,

    I am an educator with the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD), and I would like your support in changing the name of the San Francisco 49ers and the 49ers mascot.

    The name “49ers” and their mascot, “Sourdough Sam”, has direct ties to racism against Native Americans, Black people, Asian Americans, and Mexicans. The name “49er” represents a Californian living in 1849, which is arguably the most racist time in U.S. and California history. The 49er mascot is a white miner called sourdough Sam who has big googly-eyes and a wide grin much like the brown googly-eyed wide grinning brown Cleveland Indian.

    Professional authors have written on the subject of renaming “49ers” and changing it’s mascot, but it is a subject that is completely off the public radar, especially in the Bay area where the 49ers play. I have published an article on this subject in the Napa Valley Register’s “Letter to the Editor”, on Facebook, and I plan to reach out to other sources such as local Sports Radio.

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