The Great Mascot Debate

A couple of weeks ago in class we discussed the issue of using ethno-centric symbols to represent sports franchise mascots.  This lead to a discussion on the propriety of using ethno-centric images for any kind of financial gain.

I entered the conversation believing that if some percentage of the demographic in question is offended then it is not worth continuing to use the logo.  The more we marginalize and make people feel “other” the farther away we are from making progress as one human race.
I left the conversation open to the idea that, whether anyone is offended or not is not the issue.  The issue is the principle that if the logo can be perceived negatively then it should not be used. I remain open to this idea, but as I thought further it seems to have sparked more questions than answers.
Are these shirts offensive or inappropriate?

Ali T-shirt:–tanks/tee/underwater-hitter-tee/products/136707

Using a figure from a marginalized demographic for any financial gain – is it all bad?  If so, how bad?  Does it matter who is profiting?  If the money was going to the NAACP or ACLU would it be better?
Does the level to which someone takes offense matter at all – or is it strictly the principle that makes it inappropriate?
Most discussions on this topic will lead to a discussion on the Notre Dame “Fighting Irish”.  Someone in our class suggested that this was not an adequate comparison because people of Irish descent have not been marginalized in the U.S.  Here are some articles that would suggest otherwise.

This lead me to the question: Is it only inappropriate to use ethno-centric images when the demographic in question currently experiences systemic disadvantage in the U.S.?

The conclusion I’ve come to is that, like so many other social justice issues, this one calls for the allowance of some gray area.  In a perfect world we might avoid these discussions completely as there are many other choices for mascots that would accomplish the goals of building a following and subsequently making money.  In our current world I believe we must take steps to eliminate oppression wherever possible.  If there are segments of Americans that feel oppressed or attacked by an ethno-centric mascot or that it’s use perpetuates negative stereotypes, then the right thing to do is change the mascot.

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