Nearly a month after the Wakefield school committee voted to get rid of its longtime Native American mascot amid criticism that it was offensive and racist, the Massachusetts town remains starkly divided over the choice.
The debate is generating strong opinions as the town prepares for a referendum on April 27 in which voters will decide whether to keep the Native American image on the Wakefield Warriors logo.
Dozens of lawn signs dot front yards throughout town, some urging the school committee to keep the mascot and others advocating for its removal.
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“It’s supposed to be an honor to them [Native Americans], so I have no problem with it,” said Rick Farmer. “These other people — they got to find something else to complain about.”
“I think it’s the history of Wakefield, and I think it’s a shame that they’re trying to get rid of it,” said Joan Vitukevich.
The debate over the mascot follows decisions by professional sports teams to drop controversial names in recent years. Both the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Indians changed their names in 2020.
“It’s a stereotype, and there is a lot of research that shows that it’s very harmful to Native [American] youth,” said Nicole Calabrese, chair of Vote No On 1 Committee. “If the town votes yes, I just think it really — it speaks volumes about what kind of a community we are.”
The referendum, however, is non-binding, which means that it cannot force the school committee to reverse its decision.
The school committee decided to retain the Warriors name.
It’s unclear when a new logo will be chosen.