Monday, November 15
'The Native American Sports Experience'
 November 10, 1999

ESPN will examine issues surrounding Native Americans and sports in a one-hour Outside the Lines Presented by AT&T special Tuesday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. ET.

Phil Jackson
Jackson uses teachings of the Lakota Sioux in his coaching.
Hosted by Bob Ley from the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City, Outside the Lines: The Native American Sports Experience will look at the role sports play in the history and lives of Native Americans.

Segments include:

  • Phil Jackson -- Phil Jackson, the former Bulls' and current Lakers' coach, uses teachings of the Lakota Sioux in his coaching. He would burn sage to cleanse the team of negative energy and show game film intercut with clips from a movie about a Sioux warrior. Jackson says he decorated the Bulls' team room at the Berto Center with Native American artifacts to reinforce in the players' minds that their journey together each season was a sacred quest. Is he using these same coaching techniques with the Lakers? -- Rick Telander

  • Leaving the reservation -- Many Native Americans find it difficult to leave their reservations -- particularly women, especially when they are teenagers or mothers. LeAnn Montes, a Chippewa Cree from the Rocky Boy reservation in Montana, is leaving her two-year-old daughter on the reservation to play basketball and pursue an education at the University of Montana. Three of the four seniors on her high school team had children when they won Montana's 1998 Class C State Championship. Many Native Americans are not able to adjust to living away from the reservation and return before receiving their college degrees. Montes says she needs a degree to leave the alcoholism and poverty of her reservation and create a better future for her and her daughter. - Kelly Neal

  • Sports mascots-- The debate over the use of Native American mascots, logos and team names rages on.
    -- This year the Washington Redskins had seven registered trademarks canceled because a court ruled that the word "redskins" disparages a group of people.
    -- The Atlanta Braves are having ongoing discussions with people representing Time Warner shareholders. According to those people, the team has pledged more than $1 million for a campaign to educate the public about Native American culture.
    -- At the high school level, school boards are regularly faced with protests over Indian mascots. Last year the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to ban Native American mascots and team names from high school sports.

    Because teams like the Braves, Indians, Redskins, Chiefs, and Seminoles are popular, the issue touches sports at all levels, professional, college and high school. This segment focuses on the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and the ongoing debate at a high school in Marquette, Michigan. - Greg Garber

  • Jim Thorpe: The Athlete of the Century? -- In 1950, Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox Indian, was voted the greatest male athlete of the half century. What is his impact on sports today? Is he still an inspiration to Native Americans? His accomplishments: twice a college All-America; led Pennsylvania's Carlisle Indian School to victories over some of the nation's best college football teams (Army, Navy, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Pennsylvania, Nebraska); won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics; played six seasons in Major League Baseball, mostly with the New York Giants; began playing pro football with the Canton Bulldogs in 1915, and when the top teams were organized into the American Professional Football Association in 1920, was named the first president. The APFA was renamed the National Football League in 1922. - Bob Ley

  • Making it to the NHL -- There are several NHL players with Native American heritage, including Philadelphia's Sandy McCarthy, a Mic Mac Indian, and Washington's Chris Simon and Atlanta's Denny Lambert, both Ojibwa Indians. The Islanders' Gino Odjick, an Algonquin, is the only NHL player who grew up on a reservation-called a reserve in Canada. Hockey is the national sport of Canada and virtually all Native youths on reserves play hockey, but why has only one reached the NHL? This segment will look at the struggles of Native Americans to reach the NHL -- including racism and the stereotype that all Native players are enforcers. The game of hockey has Native American influences: one of the first examples of the hockey as we know it was played in the late 1600's by the Mic Mac Indians in Nova Scotia. Those interviewed include: McCarthy, Simon, Odjick, Ted Nolan (former NHL coach), Ron Delorme (NHL Scout) and Fred Sasakamoose (the first Native American to play in the NHL). - Jeremy Schaap

  • Steve Young and the Navajo nation -- San Francisco 49ers' quarterback Steve Young has visited Native American tribes in Arizona for more than 10 years under the auspices of American Indian Services, a non-profit organization which helps send Native Americans to college. Why does he do it?- Bob Ley

  • Lacrosse -- Lacrosse is perhaps the oldest sport in America, and Native Americans were playing it long before Europeans arrived in the New World. Today, the Iroquois Nation plays as it's own country in international lacrosse competition. Historically, virtually all tribes in southern Canada and the United States played some form of lacrosse -- a team could consist of hundreds or thousands of players, goals were often miles apart, and a game might last up to three days.- Bob Ley

    Quotes from Outside the Lines
    "Phil Jackson" segment
    "He was very much into cleansing of the spirit and the rooms. He'd burn sage in the practice room, in the gym, in the office, actually in the whole building&he'd also do it at the United Center." - Bill Wennington on Jackson's traditional sage-burning ritual to cleanse the soul of negative energy.
    "Here's a coach burning sage and saying he wanted to cleanse our spirit, clean our souls. And when we get out there on the court, we'll be able to perform because everything internally is clean." -- B.J. Armstrong on Jackson's sage burning.
    "I personally feel that the native folklore helped us become, as a team, more focused on what it was we were trying to accomplish -- winning the championship -- and also becoming a more cohesive unit. You know if we don't win the championships and Phil still tries to push the ideals of the Native Americans, he might be seen as a little bit off his rocker. Guys at times made jokes that he smoked too many peace pipes back in his old days." - Will Perdue

    "Leaving the reservation" segment
    "It's difficult for the Native American population to get recruited because they (schools) are taking a chance that they (Native American athletes) will stay. It's a difficult transition for them to go to college from the reservation life...many of them don't make it and they come home. There've been some great athletes who haven't made it." -- Marlee Sunchild, high school coach on the Chippewa Cree reservation in Montana
    "I thought they were wild and mean. I used to go to Browning and play against them, and that's a big, wild Indian reservation. We'd get escorted by security people to our bus, so, I was always a little scared of the Indians, but when I got to know LeAnn (Montes), I realized you couldn't judge em all because she's real nice and calm." - Cami Schenk, University of Montana teammate of Montes
    "Having her (LeAnn Montes) as a Native American on our team makes us, like, a more diverse team and it allows us to accept different cultures a lot better. It shows us that people of different cultures are just like us, and they can do what we can do." -- Cheryl Keller, University of Montana teammate of Montes

    "Sports mascots" segment
    "I have some Black American friends who are very big supporters of different teams, and I just tell 'em -- listen, how would you like that team to be called the Washington Darkies, or the Washington n-word, and they say 'Oh, that'd be terrible, we couldn't do that.'" -- U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Col.), a Northern Cheyenne

    "There's so much pride to put that jersey on with a Blackhawk on it. Native people should look at it like it's an honor to have the native head on the jersey and people respect and look up to it." -- Blair Atcheynum, Chicago Blackhawks, the only Native American (Cree) currently playing for a major professional team with Native American imagery

    "Jim Thorpe" segment
    "Jim's contemporaries, including George Halas, give full credit to Jim Thorpe for the great success, the early success, in the formative years of the NFL." -- Robert Wheeler, Jim Thorpe's biographer
    "There's been such little publicity on Jim Thorpe in the last decade or two, many young Native Americans don't know who he is." -- Billy Mills, Lakota Sioux and 10,000 meter gold medalist in 1964 Olympics

    Outside the Lines
    ESPN's Outside the Lines series debuted in 1990 and has covered a wide variety of topical subjects in sports, including the Internet, steroids, gambling, race, religion, sex, memorabilia fraud, sportsmanship and the influence of gangs. The series has won eight Sports Emmy Awards and three CableACE Awards.