Before eliminating the nickname, the school board passed a resolution honoring the nickname. The resolution asked that the nickname “Redskins” “be seen for its historical context and intend which was to give form and substance to the competitive nature, institutional pride and indomitable spirit that characterizes the student body, past and present.” The resolution passed unanimously— leading some audience members, for a moment, to conclude the school board intended to keep the name. Once the second resolution was read, the intent became clear.
Board member Anthony Scalici, who sat on the board when the issue was brought forth in 2001, voted against the retirement of the name. He said: “In all the debate I have heard, both times around, both for and against, they are all set in opinion, projections, emotions and shades of moral judgment. That is very thorny stuff.
“The only certainty that I have concluded from any of the evidence and all of the evidence is that the Cooperstown people, past, present and the future never gave or would project any meaning other than endearment and pride for the use of Redskins.”
Scalici said his vote is rooted in that certainty. He said his vote was cast to represent the many people who want to hold on to the mascot name, which they believe to be an honorable nickname for the school.
Barbara Tongue, a Cooperstown native whose family name Averill dates back to the 1700s, said she went around various places in the community to get people to sign a petition against a name change. Referring to herself as the “voice of the people,” she argued that people can ascribe any meaning to any word.
Through her experience, the alumna said, she felt more people wanted to keep the nickname than oust it. Tongue said she also ran into quite a few people who did not want to sign the petition in fear of retribution.