Major League Lacrosse player Lyle Thompson has always been proud of his Native American heritage. But the 24-year-old said that he used to wear a hat for baseball's Cleveland Indians — until he realized that the team's name reinforced harmful stereotypes about Native Americans.
"Why do we still accept being called Indians?" Thompson wrote on Instagram. "The name is wrong, the mascot is wrong. Call me crazy, but I feel for my people because of the continued exploitation and dehumanization of my people."
Since November is Native American Heritage Month, Thompson tried a social experiment. On Monday, Thompson — who has twice won the award for outstanding men's player in collegiate lacrosse award — wore a parody sweatshirt with the fake team name, "Caucasians."
Thompson wrote that he got a lot of dirty looks because of his satirical sweater.
"It didn't feel good because I felt I'm making fun of other human beings, and creating a stereotype," Thompson wrote.
Thompson documented his experience in a social media post and vowed to keep fighting until all sports organizations get rid of their offensive team names.
"What's going [on] to indigenous people in today's society is just not right, we are being completely disrespected and I cannot stand for it," he wrote on Instagram. "I realize, as a father that my daughters will grow up in this same world. I hope to bring awareness to issues like these so they can be viewed as equals in society and not some novelty mascot based on ethnic stereotypes."
By Tuesday, Thompson's Instagram post received more than 4,000 likes.
The fight against offensive sports imagery has re-entered the mainstream recently. Last year, Adidas pledged to give free resources to high schools that cease the use of any offensive sports imagery.
A Plus reached out to Thompson for a comment.