Offensive ‘Trail of Tears’ Reference Provides Teachable Moment

Original Post: November 18, 2013

We don’t know what prompted an Alabama High School to post a sign Friday night at its football game that showed such insensitivity and lack of respect.

What we do know is that the school is apologetic and believes its students need to learn from from this experience.

The school released the following statement Monday.

To Whom It May Concern:

On 11/15/2013 at a football game at McAdory High School, a sign was displayed that made reference to the “Trail of Tears” in which Native Americans were subjected to horrific atrocities. This was not condoned by the school administration, the Jefferson County Board of Education or the community. The person who would normally be responsible for approving such signs is out on maternity leave, and I take full responsibility that arrangements were not made to have the signs pre-approved before the ballgame. Please accept our sincere apologies to the Native American people and to anyone who was offended by the reference to an event that is a stain on our nation’s past forever.

In response to the “bust thru” sign used by McAdory High School during the Round 2 State Play-Off game versus Pinson Valley High School, all social studies and history teachers will re-teach and/or review units concerning Native American displacement following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.


Tod Humphries


This regrettable incident provides a teachable moment for the students at McAdory High School. Perhaps the publicity it garnered may lead others to learn about Native American history and the “Trail of Tears”.

We often hear the argument that sports team nicknames are part of a team’s history and tradition. We are told that team names referencing Native Americans are, in fact, a way of honoring them and that anyone offended by a team nickname or mascot is overreacting and should chill out.

Political Correctness is the charge.

I tend to come down more on the other side of the debate. There simply is no reason to have a sports team nickname based on a race of people.

That said, with all the team nicknames associated with peoples all over the word, it’s unlikely we will see widespread changes.

But, there is a strong case to be made that terms like “Redskins”, mascots such as “Chief Wahoo”, and fans doing the tomahawk chop at games, have contributed to a furthering of ethnic stereotyping.

Even if no harm is intended, the name and depictions reflect poorly on Native Americans.

Some of the nicknames and mascots seem to me to be easy calls.

For instance, I don’t understand how anyone legitimately can argue that the NFL’s Washington Redskins are on the right side of the nickname debate.

I’m an NFL fan. I understand the tradition and history associated with the team nickname. However, times change. Things once considered right are now, quite properly, viewed as wrong.

Agree or disagree, I think this one is wrong.

But, no matter which side you are on regarding team nicknames in sports, can we at least agree that we would all benefit from more civility?

Wouldn’t an effort to be more considerate of other people’s feelings be a reasonable place to start?

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