We can promise you right now that if the Cooperstown Redskins change their name, there will be some outrage.
There will be people saying that it’s too much fuss over nothing, that the mascot isn’t really all that offensive or that people are being too sensitive.
There will be people criticizing school officials for being a bunch of namby-pamby liberals, for kowtowing to “special-interest groups,” for letting political correctness go too far.
There will be those who bemoan the interruption to a proud athletic tradition stretching back nearly 100 years, for whom the Redskins mascot is a source of pride.
But for the most part, any change isn’t going to be up to these people. And we think that’s a good thing.
Instead, the Cooperstown Board of Education is putting it to the students to help decide, by a vote, what mascot will represent them. The vote will determine three nickname choices to be presented to the board of education on Wednesday.
The idea of doing away with mascot names that are racially insensitive is nothing new. State officials have been urging schools to make this change for years, and Cooperstown remains the lone holdout in New York.
When asked why the change was being proposed now, school officials pointed out that the pejorative term was at odds with a curriculum that urges students to respect diversity.
“What would be the board of education’s response if ever asked to justify our commitment to cultural sensitivity education and the nickname ‘Redskins”?” board President David Borgstrom asked recently.
Borgstrom certainly made a compelling argument for making the change. But it shows great sensitivity on the part of school leadership to involve the students — who are arguably the ones most affected by this proposal — in the decision-making process.
After all, it was students’ concerns in the first place that put this matter on the administration’s radar. Borgstrom told The Cooperstown Crier that students have reported feeling embarrassed when discussing the mascot with kids from other schools.
It’s entirely possible that there is not a single individual who is personally offended by the Redskins name. But we applaud Borgstrom and his colleagues for listening to the students, and starting what can only be a valuable dialogue, regardless of the outcome. Talking about the appropriateness of the Redskins name may prompt students to think twice about other terms they may take for granted.
We hope the students at Cooperstown will be as thoughtful as Borgstrom in considering their options when they vote, and that outrage can be replaced with acceptance — whatever the students decide.