AGAWAM, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- There’s contention over a local high school nickname.

It comes after the NFL Washington Redskins announce their plans on changing its team nickname and logo due to racial concerns.

For more than 60 years, Agawam High School has been known as the Agawam Brownies, representing the colors orange and brown, along with a Native American head as its logo.

Over the years, there’s been talk about changing the name. Now, a former Agawam High School student, Quiana Dickson, told Western Mass News that this is something she's hasn't been okay with for years.

"I am brown, so to have a mascot or a team being called the Brownies, it always rubbed me the wrong way, but at the time, our mindsets back then…I just couldn't put a finger on it," Dickson said.

Dickson said going to a predominately white school, she and her other friends of color would have to cope with the nickname.

"We were so quick to reduce it to a joke or even a dessert in most cases,” Dickson explained.

Wanting to change the nickname, Dickson said it's easy for people to disagree with her when it doesn't affect them personally.

"If I picked up on context clues as a child, and if I was able to put together all these things as a child, I knew, you knew as an adult, or I knew people were aware of it as an adult, but they chose to ignore it because it didn't affect them,” Dickson added.

While Dickson said it's time to change the nickname of this high school, Agawam Mayor William Sapelli said he doesn't plan on doing so.

[Reporter: You're not looking to change the name?]

“Correct,” Sapelli said, adding "If people check their facts and not jump to conclusions, there shouldn't be any controversy."

Being a part of the school for 40 years - as an educator, principal, and superintendent - Sappelli said there are two theories of how the name originated.

"I believe the real theory is one of the first coaches of football was named Brown and they named the team after that coach and it was us, the Brownies,” Sapelli added.

The other theory Sappeli said is when a football team played on a rainy day, causing their uniforms to be muddy and called each other the Brownies. He said the community should be proud.

"Agawam's proud of its roots, and thus, it's name Agawam, and a very distinctive Native American is the mascot, and that's something…like the Cleveland Indians have Chief Wahoo, who is a character and a very disrespectful character of the Native Americans if you ask me and this is not that,” Sapelli noted.

Sapelli said during these times, it's important for people in the community to look at the entire picture instead of initial reaction.

“How far do we go with this? Should we change the name Agawam? Manhattan? Those are Indian names. I could go on and on and on…People need to stay calm, not jump to conclusions, fact check before they go out on social media,” Sapelli said.

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(1) comment


Of course this is an issue in 2020, and not when it was contextual valid for the student to have an issue. Absolutely ignorant.

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