by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON — An Indiana school board voted 5-2 Monday to change a high school’s longstanding “Redskins” moniker, despite feelings about the name of many of the school’s students and at least one administrator.

As the debate over the Washington Redskins’ team name continues to pervade the rest of the U.S., like-named schools in various pockets around the nation have made similar rulings to abandon ‘Redskin’ altogether.

For Goshen High School, their ‘Redskins’ moniker has been a recurring subject of debate for as long as two decades, says school Director of Athletics Larry Kissinger.

“It comes up en masse every two years or so,” he told 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. “And I think this board just felt that we needed to show we were more sensitive, and so they felt it was the right time. Certainly it’s been a very emotional and dividing topic here over the last month.”

Kissinger posted an impassioned statement regarding the nickname on Goshen’s athletic department website, excerpted below:

Most of our student-athletes become “Redskins” when they attend their first athletic youth camp sometime between 1st and 4th grade. They learn about teamwork, they learn about commitment, they learn about sportsmanship, they make new friends; they become proud of the effort they exert and the new community to which they now belong. When Goshen student-athletes shout “Redskin pride!”, they are honoring the efforts of their athletic teammates and are making a declaration that they are proud of the positive choice they have made to be part of the team.

The official logo of the Goshen Redskins is that of an Indian Chief……..a leader……someone who sets a good example………These are the life skills that athletic participation teaches student-athletes as they grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. A leader is also someone who listens to ideas and does not condemn or criticize; someone who has to make difficult decisions that they determine to be for the good of the entire group. Our attitudes towards sportsmanship, our behavior, and our pride in Goshen HS are not dependent on our mascot name, but on the positive life skills that sportsmanship instills in student-athletes.

On writing the statement, Kissinger explained, “It was really a way to direct our student-athletes, because we’re certainly a different situation.”

“High school athletics is still ideally part of kids’ education, and so it was more of a way to promote our student-athletes being respectful of other opinions,” he said. “We are the Redskins, and so I want our kids to have Redskin pride, so my personal opinion is mixed. I wanted our kids to embrace our mascot. But I also wanted them to not get into arguments with other people; I wanted them to respect other people’s opinions.”

It’s not yet clear what Goshen’s new nickname will be, nor is the process for deciding on one apparent.

“There’s lots of push to keep it related to a Native American motif: The Chiefs, the Tribe,” Kissinger explored several possibilities. “But I do believe — my best guess, anyway — is that the board is going to ask us to not have any Native American affiliation with our mascot.”

Until last night, Kissinger said, he hadn’t realized how passionate people in the area were about the ‘Redskins’ moniker. “I’ve been trying to think [since being reached for the interview] if it parallels what your fans feel,” he said of Washington Redskins fan base. “Because I’m certainly a passionate athletic team fan, but I never was a Washington Redskin. You know, I’ve been a fan of the Washington Redskins, for example.

“Most of the people here that were really passionate about it were Goshen High School alumni, and we’ve had that nickname since 1926. It became pretty divisive, and it then branches off into a lot of things that aren’t really about the Redskins. It can become about politics, liberal versus conservative, Republican versus Democrat. You guys know that a lot better than I do.”

“It became about, well it’s disrespectful to have any Native American nickname,” he said. “Whereas originally we thought the Chiefs would be a great way to honor the tradition. But now, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that.”

Originally a point of contention, Kissinger hopes to use the name issue as a rallying point for the community: “We’ll use our current students, we’ll get community input and hopefully use that kind of as a way to heal from the divisiveness we’ve had this month, and get a bunch of different groups together working for a common cause.

“So hopefully we can twist this to a positive which, really we hope our students learn; they’ll be mad about the decision. We had a good process and it took a lot of courage for the school board to make this decision, because it certainly was not popular. The easiest thing for them to do was to sweep it under the rug, and so hopefully we’ll have a good process where it unites the community again.”

Of Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins — who has vowed never to change his team’s name — Kissinger added, “I think Mr. Snyder’s pretty strong-willed and will stick to his conviction.”

[Listen to the interview below | Follow @ChrisLingebach]


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