Committee votes to recommend changing Cedar High’s ‘Redmen’ mascot

CEDAR CITY — The Cedar High School Mascot Committee has voted to recommend changing the school’s “Redmen” mascot.

Cedar High Mascot Committee members discuss the pros and cons of changing “Redmen” mascot, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 15, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

After more than an hour of discussion, the 24-member committee cast secret ballots Tuesday toward the end the group’s meeting at the Iron County School District offices. The vote was 17-7 in favor of changing the mascot, which has been used by the school since the early 1940s.

Rich Nielsen, the district’s director of secondary education, said the final decision on the matter will be up to the school board, which meets Jan. 22, at 4 p.m. Committee members were asked to create two separate presentations to make to the board – one in favor of keeping the mascot and one in favor of changing it.

The committee was not asked to recommend a replacement mascot.

Tuesday’s meeting came one day after Monday night’s public forum on the issue at Cedar High. That event marked the third and final public forum, with the first two having taken place in December. Of the approximately 25 people who spoke publicly Monday night, all but a few said they were in favor of changing it.

However, of the 232 email messages the committee members received during the comment period that started in early December, 126 were in favor of keeping Redmen as the mascot, while 106 wanted to change it, district officials said.

Although many expressed passionate opinions one way or the other, there were others who said they appreciated the process and would be OK with whatever decision was made.

Cedar High Mascot Committee members discuss the pros and cons of changing “Redmen” mascot, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 15, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

The mascot committee, which was chosen by the school board, includes school officials and faculty members, alumni, parents, Cedar High and Cedar Middle school students, Paiute tribal leaders and other members of the community.

During the discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, the committee members sat at four tables, with six people at each table. Each group was tasked with discussing and coming up with a summary list of arguments for each side (keeping vs. changing the mascot). Approximately 60 people were in attendance, including the 24 committee members and four journalists.

Arguments cited in favor of keeping Redmen included the mascot’s longtime status as a positive source of pride and that it creates opportunities to educate students and community members about Native Americans and their culture in a positive way.

The monetary costs associated with changing signage and apparel were also cited as a reason for keeping the mascot the same.

Arguments for changing the mascot included the perception by some that the nickname is a racial slur, social media and other pressures faced by students, opposition to the term by many Native Americans, along with potential legal and liability issues.

Right before the vote took place near the end of the 90-minute meeting, one committee member expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be part of the process and encouraged his fellow committee members and the public to support the group’s decision.

“We need to respect others’ opinions,” he said. “Whatever happens, I’m fine with it.”

Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

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