After students and residents drew media exposure for allegedly selling t-shirts with Native logos at two West Hartford, Connecticut schools to include Hall High School and Conard High School, a student at Conard High confirmed to ICTMN that many adults and students are currently wearing the t-shirts with offensive Native imagery.
According to an email from a Conard student who asked not to be identified, a West Hartford coach who oversaw a sporting event for elementary school children wore a t-shirt on Sunday with the Native headdress with a ‘middle finger’ hidden in the medallion.
The shirt is a symbol of protest for those who disagree with a Board of Education decision last year to ban Native images for mascots for West Hartford schools.
An image of the t-shirt was sent to ICTMN by someone who explained that an upset parent made the shirt to protest the mascot ban at Conard High School. After that ICTMN story ran, a student (who asked not to be identified for fear of backlash) sent ICTMN the image of what the student says is an adult wearing the t-shirt while coaching middle school-aged children.
The student also says a student was wearing the t-shirt at Conard High School on Monday.
The student said in an email:
“(This) was elementary aged kids playing at King Philip Middle School.The middle finger was definitely not covered.
I attend Conard High School in West Hartford. After the attention put on West Hartford Public Schools following the t-shirt designs using Native imagery this past week, I expected our community to show more disapproval of the actions of my peers.
Instead, I hear many students and their parents mocking those who speak out against the shirts.
Moreover, today I saw a parent, coaching youth basketball, wearing the ‘middle finger’ shirt. I am truly embarrassed by much of what is going on in my community and much of what people have to say about my community in response to your articles. I hope the attention you are bringing to this issue will create positive change in the attitudes of my community.
Today I saw a student wearing it at school too.”
A Sign of Defiance
In addition to the t-shirt controversy, one West Hartford resident (who asked not to be identified) sent ICTMN this photo of an image allegedly displayed by a former school coach at his home.
According to the resident:
“I live in West Hartford…an important fact that many people have been reluctant to discuss [is] the previous 28+ year coach of the Boys Football team, Rob Cersosimo has chosen to display the Chieftain mascot logo in front of his house in a public demonstration of defiance. The logo in question may in fact have been school property…There’s a deplorable lesson being taught here from a person of influence... If you found the tee shirt offensive, this is even more so.”
West Hartford Residents Are Still Wearing the Middle Finger Native Headdress Shirts
Since ICTMN’s first article on the West Hartford t-shirt controversy, media reports questioned the validity of West Hartford residents wearing the shirts. In addition to anonymous emails of images sent to ICTMN, there are images posted to social media accounts Tumblr and Instagram by the graphic design company GrafiXpressions LLC, thanking a customer last November for a custom order of the Conard Chieftains t-shirts and sweatshirt hoodies.
Happy thanksgiving to all of our customers, friends, fans and followers! We’re thankful for each of you, without you, Grfxp wouldn’t exist... order shown in a custom hoodie order for the West Hartford Chieftains!
When ICTMN asked a representative at GrafiXpressions LLC if they knew about the middle finger logo, they said “I really don’t know anything about it. I really wouldn’t be able to speak about it. This person also said someone else in the company posted the photo and would not be able to comment.
‘Essentially, anything that gets done here is at a customer's request. Whatever they request gets done,” he said, without further comment.
Not Just the Middle Finger T-shirts
Some Conard High School students are also protesting their inability to wear Native logos in a school cheering section named ‘The Tribe.’ School officials have told students if they used Native logos on shirts, they risked losing their school nickname, the Chieftains.
The anonymous student sent ICTMN a message on Monday that was posted to ‘The Tribe’ facebook page.
According to Facebook, ‘The Tribe’ leaders from Conard met with their principal, Julio Duarte, and West Hartford School Superintendent Tom Moore to further discuss the matter. Leaders of ‘The Tribe’ at Conard have sent out a social media post to students asserting they will not use Native logos but will use only the words ‘Conard Chieftains.’
One Conard student Protest over the T-Shirt Controversy
Conard student Paris Phillips said in an email she did not object to using her name. She sent ICTMN this art and message, stating she was upset that the Native logo was once again an issue at the school.
"I am currently a student at Conard High School. As I'm sure you are aware, the issue of our previous logo and "The Tribe" coming back has been getting a lot of attention. This is an issue that I, and many others, thought was put to rest a long time ago; but apparently not. Although I doubt that the t-shirts will be allowed to sell, I was still extremely shocked and disappointed to hear that this is once again an issue that needs to be dealt with.
So upon hearing about this, I decided that I wanted to do something. And since I am an artist, I decided to express my opinion on the matter in the best way I know how. This image is a painting I created to make a statement about the use of Native American imagery as mascots, and where the line is drawn between free speech and hate speech. Overall, I have received very positive reactions. So slowly, Conard has been taking steps in the right direction."
Follow ICTMN's Sports, A&E and Pow Wow's Editor Vincent Schilling on Twitter - @VinceSchilling