‘Brave’ Boosters May Defy Board on Mascot Ban
A committee fighting to save the Birmingham High School Brave as the school mascot appears headed toward a confrontation today with American Indian activists and school district officials over plans to sell T-shirts at a school football game.
Members of the Save the Braves committee said they plan to sell shirts with that slogan at today’s game, despite objections by the school board that such sales are against its regulations.
The committee is fighting a Sept. 8 school board ruling that all schools that have nicknames or mascots referring to Native Americans must change them by the end of the school year, on the grounds that such nicknames demean the ethnic group.
Committee members said they expect to sell the shirts, beginning at 5 p.m. today, from a concession stand next to the football field that is operated by the school’s Dads Club.
Officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District said late Thursday, however, that sale of the shirts on school property is prohibited. District spokesman Shel Erlich said, “District practice is to prohibit the sale of merchandise [other than food] at district events without prior authorization of the school and/or the district.”
The announcement indicated that the shirts could be sold from sidewalks or other public areas, as long as the activity does not block pedestrians or impede traffic.
Despite the announcement, committee members vowed to carry out the sales. “We are selling the shirts to our supporters come rain or shine,” said Frank Arrigo, committee co-chairman and a 1964 Birmingham graduate.
“We are the land of the free and the home of the brave,” he added.
School officials on Thursday warned the committee that Indian activists are expected to protest the shirt sales. Representatives of the committee, Indian activists and district officials were called to a meeting today by school officials.
Jim Pitillo, also a committee co-chairman and a board member of the Dads Club, said the concession stand was built and has been operated by school supporters for more than four decades to raise funds for academic and athletic programs.
The Save the Braves committee said the logo is modeled after Chief Pontiac, considered one of the greatest Indian leaders. But Native American groups have protested the use of Indian names. Birmingham, along with two other high schools and a middle school in the LAUSD were ordered to replace their Indian mascots.
Tiffany Burgess, a Birmingham junior and track champion, commented at a recent cross-country meet: “We’re still Braves in our hearts, even if we can’t be Braves on our shirts. . . . People are making a big deal out of it. It’s just a name. As long as we know who we are inside, that’s what’s important.”