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New York Mets offend Native American Indians

I've long had a problem with professional sports organizations using borderline racist mascots - especially Native Americans - to represent their franchise. For example, the Washington Redskins, the team that plays in our nation's capital, is incredibly offensive.

If you don't agree, imagine if they were the Washington Blackskins.

Still not offended? Then you might be a racist.

The New York Mets, however, are not one of those teams. Still, they have managed to offend this often-marginalized group.

They planed to have a Native American Heritage Day this season, and even organized the event with an American Indian non-profit organization, to celebrate their involvement in the community. The only problem is that it has been scheduled during a series against the Atlanta Braves (a less offensive nickname).

Here's more from Scott Cacciola of the New York Times:

When the Mets approached the American Indian Community House, a New York-based nonprofit organization, in March about helping to organize a Native American Heritage Day, the proposal struck members of the group as a good opportunity to celebrate their involvement in the community. A date was selected — July 25 — and they began to plan pregame festivities that would include traditional dancing and singing outside Citi Field.

But there was a glitch, as far as the Mets were concerned: they were scheduled to host the Atlanta Braves that day. So in the past week, concerned that such activities might be interpreted by the Braves organization as a form of protest over its nickname, the Mets drastically reduced the day's activities: no singing, no dancing. And now there won't be any American Indians, either.

On Monday, the A.I.C.H. pulled out of the event, citing frustration with the Mets for thwarting months of planning. The team has removed the event from its online schedule of activities.

"Being a nonprofit in the city, we're not in the business of making enemies," said Kevin Tarrant, the deputy director of the A.I.C.H., which describes itself as an organization that aims to "cultivate awareness, understanding and respect" for thousands of American Indians who live in New York City. "This whole thing wasn't even our idea. But it just feels like we're being marginalized again within our own community."

The Braves have come under fire in the past for their use of the "Tomahawk Chop" chant, but according to Tarrant, no such protests were planned, or even being considered. In fact, it was quite the opposite:

"It wasn't like we were planning to protest anything," Tarrant said. "We just thought it would be great to show natives in a positive light — that we're human beings, and we're not from 300 years ago. We're visible." He added: "It was a win-win situation. We'd be supporting the Mets, the Braves and Major League Baseball."

The A.I.C.H. was looking forward to the event, and had planned to make it part of an annual Native American Week, but things quickly evaporated.

After the Mets decided to cancel the pregame festivities and PSA that was planned, they told the group they were still welcome to attend and do some fund-raising, but Native American Heritage Day stopped there.

Last Wednesday, a member of the Mets' group sales department e-mailed the A.I.C.H. in response to a series of questions from the group, which sought an explanation.

"It was brought to my attention that we need to be sensitive to the Braves being a partner MLB team and can't put them in a situation for a potentially negative environment to be brought upon them," the Mets official wrote. "I know this is not the plan, but sometimes people come to events under different agendas than expected. I'm not referring to [A.I.C.H.] or any of the organizations involved, but more about unknown groups that may want to change the perception of the event."

The Mets offered two other days, but the A.I.C.H. declined, due to the fact that they had other events planned for that week to coincide with the game.

On Monday, according to Cacciola, they called the whole thing off and decided to ask the Mets for a refund.

The cancellation of the event - which stemmed from the Mets' self-serving need to protect themselves, the Braves and MLB from potential protests - is more than that, however. The decision clearly showed that the Mets value the Braves more than the people their mascot represents.

Cacciola has much more on how much went into planning this event and how it all fell apart. I suggest you click here to read his full story.