Mascot nicknames draw civil rights suit

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Braves, Indians, Redskins. They're among the nicknames schools throughout Michigan -- and in West Michigan -- use for their teams and mascots.

Late last week, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed a complaint with the US Department of Education wanting mascots, slogans and representations of Native Americans associated with public school sports teams banned.

Citing studies they say show such images have a negative impact on some students, even those who don't attend schools with such mascots, the department wants them eliminated.

The enforcement mechanism the feds would have, if they go along with the complaint, would be to withhold money from the schools. The amount of federal money differs between districts, but it is not an insignificant amount.

The Department of Civil Rights said they did not ask for any specific enforcement -- though they admit withholding money could be the net result.

That rubs some Michigan lawmakers the wrong way and has some wondering out loud about the funding of the Department Civil Rights.

At least one local district contacted by 24 Hour News 8 concurred with the Civil Rights Department -- though not necessarily on merit. They would have to change their mascot because they just couldn't leave the federal money on the table.

This kind of change would likely be challenged in court.

And this complaint, filed by the  Michigan Department of Civil Rights, may create a dust-up from coast-to-coast.

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Michigan is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.
 
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