PINSON — The controversy over the use of wording on a banner in a high school football game two weeks ago has spread to the team that was targeted.
An online petition has asked that Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Nowlin force Pinson Valley High School to discontinue use of the word “Indians” as their athletic teams’ nickname, and any characterization of Native Americans as the school mascots.
The petition, posted on the website Change.org, came about when Tony Vanlandingham of Weitchpec, Calif., saw the original stories about McAdory High’s principal apologizing for a reference to the Trail of Tears in a banner that Yellow Jackets players ran through prior to their playoff game with the Indians on Nov. 15.
The Trail of Tears was a forced relocation of Native Americans from north and east Alabama, the Carolinas and other parts of the southeastern United States into what was then called “Indian Territory” in the 1830s. Thousands of Native Americans died in the march to the territory, which is now the state of Oklahoma.
Nowlin also published an online apology for the banner, which had not been approved by McAdory’s cheerleading sponsor because the sponsor was on leave. An official with the Cherokee nation also published a statement, saying that they hoped the incident would help students learn about the Trail of Tears.
But the incident had a knock-on effect, bringing attention to Pinson Valley’s nickname and mascot, which induced Vanlandingham to start the online petition drive.
“This is another shining example of how Indian mascots are in no way ‘honoring’ any native American Indian, living or deceased, and is just a blatant form of accepted racism that needs to end,” Vanlandingham said in the petition.
Change.org is a site which lists a myriad of petitions for all sorts of causes and grievances. It is supported by advertising and for “sponsored petitions,” for which someone pays for better exposure on the site. Its petitions do not have any legal standing, however, and are largely meant to bring attention to a cause. Some petitions garner hundreds of thousands of petitioners, and the company claims that many of its petitions have brought about “victories,” as it calls those that bring about the desired change. But so far Vanlandingham’s only had 59 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
Jared Holloway, a trainer for Pinson Valley’s sports teams, said that the issue about the mascot last surfaced roughly eight years ago when The Birmingham News did a seroes of articles about nicknames and mascots that some viewed as offensive, such as the Rebels of Vestavia Hills High School.
A spokesman for the Alabama High School Athletic Association said that the group does not have an official comment on the matter, other than to say that they leave local school decisions to those who run the local systems.
Nowlin could not yet be reached for comment as of Monday afternoon.