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  • Mascot Nation: The Controversy over Native American Representations in Sports by Andrew C. Billings and Jason Edward Black
  • Christine M. O’Bonsawin
Billings, Andrew C., and Jason Edward Black. Mascot Nation: The Controversy over Native American Representations in Sports. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2018. Pp. vii + 242. Index, notes, black-and-white photographs, charts, tables. $99.00, hb. $24.95, pb.

For over half a decade, Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, leaders, and activists have assessed complex questions concerning the appropriateness of Native American representations in sport. In fact, scholars have approached the topic from multiple disciplinary perspectives—history, sociology, psychology, Indigenous studies, and economics (to name a few)—and growing consensus has emerged: there no longer exists (and perhaps there never did) a place for Native American representations in sport. Further, the enduring inclusion of such racialized names, mascots, and associated rituals affirm that an ideology of colonialism permeates twenty-first-century sport in the United States and thus its settler colonial society. Considering that this controversial topic has received widespread scholarly and public attention, it must be asked: how does Mascot Nation contribute further to our understanding of Native American representations in sports?

Mascot Nation indeed provides nuanced and meaningful insights on the subject matter, owed to its interdisciplinary scope, methodological breadth, and rich theoretical grounding. In the introduction, Andrew C. Billings and Jason Edward Black claim to provide no definitive answers. However, they do suggest that Mascot Nation offers a sincere attempt at moving toward a resolution by uncoupling names from images and rituals, which assists in establishing why various camps and positions have been formed over the years. The aim of the book is threefold: it seeks to advance a theoretically driven discussion (chapters 1 and 2); confront the controversy using survey-based considerations (chapters 3, 4, and 5); and interrogate case studies where disputes on Native American representations have transpired (chapters 6 and 7). These objectives are first addressed independently, through a coherent organization of the book, and advanced collectively in the closing chapter (chapter 8), as the authors provide valuable foresight on the controversial subject matter for moving forward. [End Page 78]

The methodological scope of the book is most impressive. The authors effectively engage secondary literature, drawing from works of sport studies scholars on the topic of Native American representations in sport, including C. Richard King, Ellen J. Staurowsky, Jennifer Guiliano, and Stephanie Fryberg. Further, the authors’ engagement with postcolonial literature is most impressive, drawing from the works of prominent scholars such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Philip J. Deloria, Emma LaRocque, Duane Champagne, and Glen Sean Coulthard, to establish a productive basis for understanding the controversial topic through frameworks of colonialism, neocolonialism, postcolonialism, and decolonization.

Mascot Nation is rich in empirical sources and analysis of such materials. Central to the scope of the book are the results of an exhaustive survey conducted with 1,076 respondents from a national sample (although this number is occasionally presented as 1,073), contextualized further through analysis of user-generated (YouTube) and social media (Facebook) and perspectives gained through interviews. Information obtained through the national survey was exhaustive, producing a myriad of insightful conclusions regarding the appropriateness and offensiveness of names and textual fields, visual symbols, and rituals and performances. Notably, the national survey verifies that “savage” and “redskin” are indeed the least acceptable and most offensive Native American monikers in sport.

Another strength of the book is the dichotomization of information gathered from the national survey, which explores the presumed stakes (or lack thereof) of fandom when and if Native American representations are removed/retired (presented in chapter 7). Billings and Black draw from the national survey, specifically information provided by self-identified University of Illinois and Florida State University fans, to determine whether their fandom changed (or will potentially change) with the removal/retirement of prominent Native American symbols/mascots. Through an adept comparative reading of the results, the authors present a convincing argument for the need to remove Native American representations in sport moving forward, demonstrating the inconsequentiality of these names, visual symbols, and rituals to sport fandom.

In the end, the authors seemingly arrive at a much different place from...


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