CINCINNATI -- "Races of people should not be mascots," Greater Cincinnati Native American Coalition spokesman Jheri Neri said Monday night. "Period."
Neri and other Native Americans who addressed the ongoing debate around Anderson High School's "Redskin" mascot Monday evening kept their remarks to the point, flatly stating using an ethnic group the same way other athletic teams use animals, mythical creatures and artichokes isn't an act of respect.
"Just a matter of record, we are not feeling honored by the term -- by the R word," parent Mary Pember, who identified herself as Native American, said. "We are not feeling it at my house."
Parents, students and alumni felt strongly enough for a meeting of Anderson High's recently formed branding and mascot committee to attract an audience of hundreds, each resolute, some shouting over one another to make their opinions heard. The debate, which has preoccupied the community since late February, showed no signs of reaching a conclusion.
"We know what Redskin means," student Sean Schaeffer said. "And a Redskin is a valiant, noble warrior who fights for his community and does what is right."
The chiefs of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Seminole and Muscogee nations disagreed with Schaeffer's stance in 2013, when they co-authored a resolution labeling the term "derogatory and racist" and arguing it "perpetuates harmful stereotypes, even if it is not intentional." To them, it means denigration.
Anderson High School's athletic teams have been called by the disputed name since 1936 and retained the moniker even as schools such as Miami University and Dartmouth dropped Native American mascots in favor of the RedHawks and the Big Green.
For some opposed to changing the mascot, many of whom arrived in orange T-shirts bearing the slogan "Once a Redskin, always a Redskin," the sheer longevity of the mascot is reason enough to keep it. Removing it could, in their eyes, damage the sense of tradition and connectedness they enjoy as a community.
Those who support a change argued there are more important considerations.
"At the end of the day, it's a name, and it's time to go," student Jadyn Riggs said. "The change is now."
The branding and mascot committee formed in response to the debate will make a recommendation to the school board once it reaches a decision. No deadline for said decision has yet been made public.