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Bay State high school logos from the Tewksbury Redmen to the Wakefield Warriors could be history after yesterday's bombshell trademark ruling against the Washington Redskins breathed new life into the fight against Native American mascots, said two opposing advocates.
More than 40 high schools in Massachusetts use Native American images or names - but maybe not for long after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled the Redskins name is offensive.
"There are absolutely concerns. The biggest concern should be in Tewksbury because their nickname is the Redmen as well," said Erich Thalheimer of Natick, who's fighting to bring the same logo back to his hometown high school.
"The politically correct police," Thalheimer added, are tough to beat.
Natick High changed its team name to the 'Redhawks' about seven years ago after a townwide battle that divided the community.
The patent office yesterday sacked six federal trademark registrations for the name 'Washington Redskins' - a decision that blindsided the team and re-ignited the national conversation about whether Native Americans should be used as mascots.
"Over the next few years, I think we're going to see some movement," said Pete Sanfacon, who runs the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition. "There's been a lot of discussion out there over the past few months that has come out of the Washington team's nickname."
Nauset Regional High School and Dedham High School have also dropped their Native American logos in recent years, but that's just a start, said one Native American who has been watching the situation closely.
"Whatever tradition started it, in this day and age, it's not appropriate," said Claudia Fox Tree, a board member for the Massachusetts Center of Native American Awareness, a nonpolitical group. "If you use an extreme caricature or name, it's obvious that it's not appropriate."
Some schools view their logos as a source of pride.
"We're real proud of our program and our kids and what we represent. I think we go out of our way to honor the people who were here first in this country,? Brian Hickey, athletic director in Tewksbury, said about worries of his school's Redmen logo. "I think most of the people in Tewksbury feel that way. Most people understand that it's a point of honor for us and our town, and we try to do honor to them.?
Another athletic director, who asked for anonymity as the issue hits a national boiling point once again, said he doesn't want "one of these groups coming after us like they did at other schools."
"If this group comes and brings it to the school committee, it could catch fire. That's what happened in Natick. If you can get Natick to change their name, anything is up for grabs," he said.
The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, the organization charged with running high school sports in the Bay State, has steered clear of the controversy.
"It's none of our business. It's done town-by-town. We don't have any control over what they do," said Paul Wetzel, spokesman for the MIAA. "There have been some changes made, and the one that comes to mind is Natick, but we weren't involved in that. It's nothing we have a say in."