Sarasota Man Advocates Changing Florida Team Mascots

Aug 18, 2014

Credit Tom Hagerty/Flickr

A Sarasota man with Native American heritage is campaigning to change all the Florida team mascots that use names that offend him.

Sal Serbin is a member of a tribe within the Great Sioux Nation. He’s currently pushing to change the Venice High and Elementary School mascots from the Indians. He first brought the issue before the Sarasota County School Board in July.

Serbin said the mascots mock Native American traditions and culture. He also said they violate several Florida statutes dealing with hate crimes, harassment and discrimination. 

“I wish that they would actually look into our culture and heritage," he said. "They would understand why painting your face, having feathers in your hair – that has very significant meaning to us. It’s not just putting on makeup and sticking a feather in your hair.” 

But, some Venice residents don’t agree with Serbin. An online petition has almost 1,700 signatures to keep the Venice mascot as the Indians. A Facebook page protesting the change has about 1,800 members.

Joelene Morris started the Facebook group and petition. She graduated from Venice High School in 2002. Morris said the mascot is revered by the community. 

“I can’t see Venice High being anything other than the Venice Indians… You choose a mascot not only for good luck and to be a symbol of your school, but because people admire that; they remember that about you. No one wants to be remembered for offensive things," she said.

Serbin plans to speak at future school board meetings. He is also hosting an event in early September in Sarasota to discuss Native American culture.