For decades, Lancaster Central School athletes have lived by the popular chant “Once a Redskin, always a Redskin.”
But they may soon have to change their tune.
Thursday’s news that the district is considering changing the “Redskins” nickname it uses for its sports teams drew reaction from both sides of the passionate topic.
Students at the school took to the Internet to protest the news, with one writing, “You will never take our name, our history or our legacy.”
Former Town Supervisor Robert H. Giza, a former sports star at the high school, was a bit more diplomatic.
“I’m the type of person that never wants to hurt somebody,” Giza said. “So if someone is offended, I have no problem changing it.”
The district, one of three in the state that still uses the name many Native Americans consider a racial slur, has not made a final decision but is looking into the logistics of a change.
District officials have asked coaches at the school which jerseys feature the name as part of the team uniform, as any change would likely require spending money on new uniforms.
They have also begun to form a committee to formally explore the measure throughout the upcoming school year.
The move comes in the wake of renewed calls for the Washington Redskins pro football team to change its name. Many Native Americans find the term an offensive reminder of past dealings with white settlers.
Washington owner Daniel Snyder told USA Today that the team would “never change the name.”
“It’s that simple,” he told the newspaper. “NEVER. You can use caps.”
Some high schools across New York State, though, haven’t been so firm in their positions.
Cooperstown Central School students in May forced a name change at their school, and in recent years two Rochester districts made changes.
Penfield changed its name from the Chiefs to the Patriots and Irondequoit from the Indians to the Eagles.
Canisteo-Greenwood appeared ready to make a change earlier this year but decided to keep “Redskins” after a public outcry and a campaign to remove the school official who suggested it.
Cooperstown, which changed its name to Hawkeyes, even received $10,000 from local Native Americans to defray the costs of new uniforms.
Giza, who was the captain of the football, wrestling and track teams and a member of the school’s athletic hall of fame, said he and other athletes at Lancaster believed they were honoring the bravery of Native Americans with the nickname.
But he said he understands why many Native Americans object.
“I don’t think the intent was to ever hurt someone originally,” Giza said. “These are different times. I never thought about it that way, but if other people do, I can respect that.”
There is no word on what nickname Lancaster would choose if it drops “Redskins,” or even how it would come up with a new name. But one thing is certain as the issue moves along throughout the next school year.
“I know there is going to be a lot of feelings on both sides,” Giza said.