WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – A long-standing tradition at Warren Harding football games has been altered. As of Friday night, the student carrying the big flag around the stadium was not dressed like a Native American.
The mascot used to be dressed in full Native American attire, carrying a large flag with a “W” for Warren. But on Friday night, the Native American dress was gone, replaced by a Warren sweatsuit and, by the game’s end, just a short-sleeve shirt.
“So every time he came out he was well-received, a lot of applause by the crowd,” said Warren Harding High School Principal Dante Capers.
Capers was on the committee that started meeting in July, reviewing the school’s use of a student dressed in Native American attire at sporting events. It was decided to suspend it for at least this year.
“Recognizing that such symbols are considered sacred by many natives, we wanted to suspend the use of those symbols by our students pending a review for appropriateness going forward,” Capers said.
The move is not a suspension.
“It’s under review and it may be permanent but again, it’s something that’s under review at this time,” Capers said.
“It’s quite frankly offensive to Native American people,” said 2009 Harding graduate Eric Brown.
The idea of getting rid of the Native American dress was first brought up in early July by Brown, who started an online petition against the portrayal.
“And the paint, it’s not just randomly placed on the face just because they think it’s a cool pattern. It’s earned and there’s usually a lot of pain and bloodshed that’s behind that,” Brown said.
While the student’s dress was changed, the Raiders logo was not. At a meeting in August, the Warren School Board made it clear this was not a mascot change, at least not for now.
“We’re still the Raiders, that’s still our logo. Again, they made it clear that if that were to happen, it would be part of a larger community conversation,” Capers said.