Press Release

ADL Statement on Sports Team Names and Stereotypes

New York, NY, October 15, 2013 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on professional sports teams to seriously consider moving away from “the use of hurtful and offensive names, mascots and logos,” but said that the ultimate decision to do so lies with the team’s ownership with input from the fan base.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:

We believe the time has come for responsible sports enterprises to seriously consider moving away from the use of hurtful and offensive names, mascots and logos.  Having said that, the decision to change the name should come from the team’s ownership with input from the fan base. It is up to them to decide to let go of this hurtful tradition.

In the early 20th century, when many great American sports franchises were first named, offensive caricatures and stereotypes of Jews and other minorities were widespread in the mainstream media and popular culture.  Today, offensive caricatures are no longer prevalent, public figures cannot utter ethnic slurs without repercussions, and we have come a long way in fighting discrimination and educating about the impact of prejudice and the fact that words and stereotypes can hurt.

Sports has long been a centerpiece of our culture, and today it reflects American values of inclusion, pluralism and equality in a way it did not 50 or 60 years ago.  Numerous teams, particularly in college sports, have moved away from names that evoke negative stereotypes, particularly against Native Americans, to better reflect these values.  And newly established teams are no longer choosing names or mascots that draw on these stereotypes. Professional sports today have become a vehicle to enhance respect and inclusion, and yet, this is still an obstacle.

Unfortunately, however, some offensive caricatures persist.  While it is not the intention of the fans, owners or leaders of sports franchises to offend, teams like the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians have a responsibility to be sensitive to the legitimate hurt that offensive names, mascots and logos cause. Tradition matters, but tradition should not justify the perpetuation of such names and mascots.  A name change will not impact how a team fares on the field, or in the standings.