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New Adidas Initiative to Help High Schools Drop Native American Mascots

Changing mascots can be a prohibitive process for high schools, as it often costs tens of thousands of dollars to replace uniforms and other related items. On Thursday, Adidas announced an initiative to facilitate that process for schools with Native American mascots.

Adidas, which launched this new initiative in conjunction with the White House Tribal Nations Conference, will provide free design services and financial assistance to schools looking to switch away from Native American mascots, per Anne M. Peterson of the Associated Press. Schools interested in pursuing such a move can email [email protected], according to Peterson.

The company gave a brief statement about the new program on its Twitter account:

Eric Liedtke, Adidas' head of global brands, extrapolated on the new initiative in a statement to the AP.

"Today's announcement is a great way for us to offer up our resources to schools that want to do what's right—to administrators, teachers, students, and athletes who want to make a difference in their lives and in their world," Liedtke said. "Our intention is to help break down any barriers to change—change that can lead to a more respectful and inclusive environment for all American athletes."

Jackie Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, and Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, both leaders of the "Change the Mascot" initiative, praised Adidas for its new program.

"Adidas clearly understands that in 2015, businesses cannot sit on the sideline on this issue and that they must choose which side they are on," they said in a statement. "It is inspiring to see that Adidas has chosen to be on the side of inclusivity and mutual respect and has set an example for others to follow."

The issue has come to the forefront in recent years, as a number of schools and a handful of states have begun to reconsider the appropriateness of Native American mascots. In October, Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill prohibiting schools from using "Redskins" as a mascot, making it the first state to enact such legislation. The Oregon board of education likewise banned schools from using "Redskins" mascots back in 2012, although the state legislature has yet to consider the issue. The Houston Independent school district, meanwhile, has enacted a ban on the use of any race or ethnic group as a mascot or nickname.

According to the advocacy group Change the Mascot, roughly 2,000 schools across the country currently have Native American mascots in place, per the AP.

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