Before their playoff football game against Pinson Valley Indians last Friday, students at Alabama’s McAdory High School raised a banner with a simple message: “Hey Indians, get ready to leave in a trail of tears. Round 2.”
The sign found its way to the fiftyfourfortyorfight Tumblr site and sparked outrage online, particularly when McAdory administrators initially avoided apologizing.
School officials apologized Sunday in a statement on the McAdory web site.
“This was not condoned by the school administration, the Jefferson County Board of Education or the community,” McAdory principal Tod Humphries said in the statement . “The person who would normally be responsible for approving such signs is out on maternity leave, and I take full responsibility that arrangements were not made to have the signs pre-approved before the ballgame. Please accept our sincere apologies to the Native American people and to anyone who was offended by the reference to an event that is a stain on our nation’s past forever.”
Humphries said the school’s social studies and history teachers would re-teach or review lessons on the 1830 Indian Removal Act that created the Trail of Tears.
This incident, though, is the epitome of the basic problem with the prevalence of Native American imagery in sports. When we turn Native Americans into mascots, we put them in a class with the Philly Phanatic or generic Bulldogs and Tigers rather than remembering that they are a people who have survived — and are still dealing with the effects of — real atrocities and terrible policies that aren’t in any way similar to the outcome of a high school football game.