Governor Scott Walker signs Indian mascot bill into law

MUKWONAGO (WITI) — Governor Scott Walker signed the controversial Indian mascot bill into law on Thursday, December 19th — making it easier for schools with Indian mascots to keep them, and harder for people offended by the nicknames to challenge them.

“When we tell our children that it’s okay to stereotype an entire race of people, it’s just plain bad educational practice,” said Barbara Munson with the Oneida Nation.

Walker was conflicted saying he didn’t ask for the bill, but signed it because he saw it as a constitutional matter — stating the previous law infringed on free speech.

“It’s a careful balance between being sympathetic to the tribal leaders I’ve talked to across the state who have concerns about mascots names, and I’ve said repeatedly personally if I could do something about it, I’d modify those names and mascots so that they weren’t offensive to anybody in this state,” said Gov. Walker. “By the same token there’s a legitimate concern about free speech and whether the government should be involved in regulating not only what individuals and groups of individuals — in this case school districts —  can and can’t say, even if we don’t agree with all the speech.”

Republican Steven Nass of Whitewater is the author of the law. “Can something be offensive?” he asked. “Sure. Does that mean it’s discrimination? No, it doesn’t.”

The old law put the burden on the school district to prove its nickname wasn’t offensive. The new law shifts the burden to the petitioner and requires the signatures of 10% of the student population, instead of just one complaint.

The old law also required a hearing in front of the Department of Public Instruction while the new law shifts that hearing to the Department of Administration.

“So we’re going to go back and redo the whole process?” asked State Representative Christine Sinicki. “I’m against that and I’m going to fight it.”

Some Native American groups have signaled there could be legal challenges, but Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says he would defend the law.

“Obviously if it’s challenged from that perspective, we will be defending it,” said Van Hollen.

Thursday was the last day for Gov. Walker to either sign or veto the bill. If he had not acted, it would have automatically become law.

After signing the bill, Gov. Walker released the following statement:

After careful consideration of the arguments, both for and against this bill, I have decided to sign it into law.  The bill creates a process by which the citizens in the communities affected have input and direct involvement in the undertaking of changing a school mascot.

I am very concerned about the principle of free speech enshrined in our U.S. Constitution.  If the state bans speech that is offensive to some, where does it stop? A person or persons’ right to speak does not end just because what they say or how they say it is offensive.  Instead of trying to legislate free speech, a better alternative is to educate people about how certain phrases and symbols that are used as nicknames and mascots are offensive to many of our fellow citizens.  I am willing to assist in that process.

With that in mind, I personally support moving away from nicknames or mascots that groups of our fellow citizens find seriously offensive, but I also believe it should be done with input and involvement at the local level.

Michael Allen, Sr., Executive Director of the Great Lakes Inter-tribal Council released the following statement:

Wisconsin’s proud progressive history suffered a black eye today. What had been a leadership position among all the states in the eradication of institutionalized racial stereotyping has been relocated to a back bench. In the name of free speech, Governor Walker has relived Mukwonago and other recalcitrant school districts of their governmental responsibility to consider the rights and sensibilities of an ethnic minority.

Native American sports team names, logos and mascots do not ‘honor’ Indians. They promote what some people think of as a warrior or take-no-prisoners fighting spirit. Sports logos and mascots ignore Native American statesmen, teachers, inventors, artists, farmers, parents, veterans and religious leaders, and they ignore the cultural differences that distinguish one tribe from another.

No other ethnic group would or should tolerate such discriminatory ‘free speech’ that is governmentally approved first at a school district level, and now at a state level. Free speech is an individual’s right, not a government right. The Governor has merely attempted to rationalize a politically expedient and bad decision.

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9 comments

  • cynic

    As a Menomonee Falls Indian Alumni, I thank you. They’ve been trying to get them to change their name for years. I’m glad ONE over-sensitive person can’t continue to cause trouble for entire communities any more. Especially over something as minor as a school mascot. We have much larger problems to worry about…ObamaCare anyone?

  • sandman54862

    walker claimed now he supports free speech and was worried about signing he bill. That would be a complete 180 from his record of doing all he can to end free speech and never allows open records. he has violated the laws thousands of time with his ALEC emails.

  • Ted

    Lots of jibs will be created with…oh, nevermind, Walker thinks his job creation record is a success. All he had to do is create one net positive job and he and his minions would pat each other on the back.

  • Ted

    “I am very concerned about the principle of free speech enshrined in our U.S. Constitution. If the state bans speech that is offensive to some, where does it stop?”

    Try telling the Solidarity Singers that.

  • CONCERNED

    thats just like saying we cant say pledge of allegiance in school, put up a Christmas tree or decorations in the schools or say MERRY CHRISTMAS..BECUASE IT OFFENDS ALL THAT ARE NOT FROM THIS COUNTRY…SCREW YOU….IF YOU DONT LIKE THE WORDS MERRY CHRISTMAS GET THE HELL OUT OF THIS COUNTRY

  • sandman54862

    The surface level, gospel lacking movement that has been called Christianity by most Americans used to anger me. Now it saddens me. There are millions of spiritually dead, sin enslaved people wading throughout their lives with no real love for God, desire to know Him, or passion for His purposes; yet, because they’ve got their tie on straight and hair up high walking into church on Sunday, they think their on their merry way to heaven. When you ask them about their salvation, they assure you that was something they already took care of back in the day. There’s no urgency in their hearts to know God. There’s no fire in their bones for the things of God. They’re just so….. dead. But, they are of course Christian, because:
    1) They prayed a prayer they didn’t even understand when they were 4.
    2) They go to church almost semi-regularly.
    3) They read the whole bible that one summer at youth camp.
    4) They’re a registered republican.
    5) They got baptized… twice.
    So many people define their Christian life by what they do, but not by what Christ has done.
    America at large is spiritually dead. God isn’t the passion of these people’s lives….money, recognition, power and lust motivate the sickened hearts of the multitudes around us, even within the Church. They just cloak there selfish motives with the name of Jesus.
    Almost every anti-religious, gospel-rejecting person I’ve ever talked to sees past the porcelain smile right into the cast-iron heart of the average American “Christian”. They see the self-righteousness. They see the pride. They see there’s no genuine care or concern. There’s just emptiness, nothingness, and death.
    Professing Christians in this country aren’t any better off than you are when it comes to their eternal security in Christ. I also want to assure you that the majority of the Christianity you see around you is a bogus, man-made, man-centered, circus. Don’t base your belief in Jesus simply on the religiosity of other people. Look to the Bible. Read it and take it in, for what it says, and shape your view of Jesus there.
    In the midst of the stampedes of judgmental, self-righteous “church folk”, there are also genuine and passionate lovers of Christ intermingled in the mix. They’re often not noticed, because of their humility. They’re often not rich, because of their sacrifice. You won’t see them picketing the streets with anti-gay signs, because they’re sharing the gospel with their gay friends at work. You won’t find them burning down abortion clinics, because they’re at home taking care of the baby they adopted from a 15 year-0ld teen.
    These people, these Christians, aren’t just “saying the right things”. They aren’t just smiling on Sunday. They are out living what they believe… because their hearts have been so radically transformed by Jesus Christ.
    “You will know them by their fruit”- Matthew 7:16


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