A Connecticut Democrat introduced a sudden budget provision Tuesday that would block funding to public schools in the state that continue to use Native American sports team mascots and nicknames unless a tribe in the region gives written consent.
State Sen. Cathy Osten (D), co-chair of the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, inserted the provision in the budget bill.
“Towns around this state have been told year after year by Connecticut’s Native American tribes that their nicknames and mascots are horribly offensive,” Osten said, according to a press statement. “If certain cities and towns won’t listen to their fellow citizens, then they can certainly do without the tribal money that they are showing such disrespect toward.”
Connecticut receives a 25 percent share of slot machine revenues from two casinos owned and operated by the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes, the Associated Press (AP) reported. Osten proposed denying towns with Native American team mascots their allotment of the casino revenue.
The statement from Osten’s office said the Connecticut Native American tribes provide “more than $50 million in funding every year to Connecticut cities and towns.”
Osten, a former union president with the Department of Correction, pointed out in the press release the school board of Killingly voted in 2019 to change the name of its school team from Redmen to Red Hawks following a campaign by a local tribe and some faculty and students.
Two months later, however, Republicans won a supermajority in town elections, running on the issue of reversing the decision and restoring the traditional name.
“This is the first I’m hearing about this,” Killingly Town Council Chairman Jason Anderson (R) said about Osten’s budget provision.
Osten said Killingly received more than $188,000 in the last biennial state budget from the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan casino revenues.
Connecticut lawmakers are in a special session in which the Democrat majority unveiled an 837-page “implementer bill,” which includes newly-funded programs and services, reported the Connecticut Examiner.
House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora said Osten’s provision regarding the denial of funds to towns with Native American team mascots “came out of nowhere” and is an example of the implementer bill going “far beyond just implementing the budget.”
“I’m mad,” said State Sen. Craig Miner (R), who said the sudden provision would give the town of Litchfield only two weeks to weigh whether to change its mascot.
State Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly (R) said the proposal “would be better as a subject for a separate bill where all the parties could be at the table.”
According to the news report, the funding would begin to be withheld from schools or their intramural or interscholastic athletic teams beginning in the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2022.
Funding will be denied if these schools do not change “any name, symbol or image that depicts, refers to or is associated with a state or federally recognized Native American tribe or a Native American individual, custom or tradition, as a mascot, nickname, logo or team,” or receive written permission from a tribe in the area to continue its use.