Redmen issue transformed Natick
By Charlie Breitrose, MWDN, Fri Jan 2, 2009
NATICK - The firestorm ignited by the push to change Natick High School's nickname did not start in 2008, but the blaze grew more intense this year and may well have a transformational effect on the town's political scene.
The School Committee's 4-3 vote in March 2007 to stop using Redmen as the school's nickname started the controversy, which spilled into 2008 with a ballot measure introduced by the newly formed advocacy group Redmen Forever.
Supporters pointed to the decades of tradition using the name for NHS's athletes, and also to the town's heritage as a home to the Praying Indians. Those against the name said the name is a racial slur and insults American Indians.
Voters approved the measure — by a vote of 6,085 to 3,291 — asking the School Committee to ``reconsider'' its decision to stop using the nickname, which has been in place since 1956.
``We probably ran the most successful losing campaign that Natick has ever seen,'' Jimmy Brown, co-chairman of Redmen Forever, said this week. ``What it did obviously do is pointed out many other issues in Natick.''
Following the election, the School Committee did take a second look at the nickname. To gather input and opinions the committee hired a law firm to examine the legal ramifications and held a public forum in Wilson Middle School's auditorium in May. Hundreds of supporters of the name and those looking for it to be removed showed up and spoke for hours.
In June, the School Committee gathered once again to vote and this time voted 7-0 to end the use of Redmen as Natick High School's nickname. The school now calls the teams the Red and Blue, the pre-Redmen name.
The Redmen Forever group considered pushing for another referendum, this time one which would be a binding vote, but that effort ended soon after the School Committee's vote.
Instead, the group went in a new direction, officially becoming a political action committee and named itself Natick Forever. Brown hopes to address other issues facing the folks who supported his effort to keep the nickname.
``The Redmen issue is the thing that kind of ties people together,'' Brown said. ``But I get a lot of questions - What can we do about this? What can we do about that?''
Natick Forever held a political ethics seminar in September, and Brown said the group plans to endorse candidates in the 2009 town election. He also hopes to see members push for more open and responsible town government.
``It's amazing when something comes in front of selectmen or Town Meeting and a question is asked about specifics and no one has answers,'' Brown said. ``That's seriously now what we are concentrating on, and (also) hopefully getting responsible people into office.''
Thursday, Dec 4th, 2008:
The Curse of the Redmen? Member NHS Class of 1980
As I sat in the stands at Bowditch Field last Thursday watching the annual Natick - Framingham football game it occurred to me that someone, or something, was missing. The Natick Blue & Red, or Red & Blue, or Black & Blue, or whatever they are called now, certainly played their hearts out, but something was missing. What could it be? The same outstanding head coach was on the sidelines as when I played football for Natick. The players looked the same size, best as I could recall. And the weather was typical of most Thanksgiving Days.
Then it dawned on me, as I almost slipped up and started to cheer for the team name that has been deemed unacceptable to utter by the thought police (Shhh...It's the Redmen). Indeed it was the mighty Natick Redmen spirit that was missing in Natick's 28 to 9 loss. The Redmen, the heart and sole that use to be counted on as a 12th man on the field, was nowhere to be found because it might be considered offensive to someone living under a rock somewhere who might (want to) be offended.
So after five straight years of beating the Framingham Flyers perhaps we are now seeing the beginning effects of...dare I say it..."The Curse of the Redmen". I sure hope not, especially since another local "Curse" took 86 years to overcome. So let's all remember this in March when we get to vote for various town offices. Those who placed this curse on us, namely the current Natick School Committee members, will get to hear how we feel about the "improvements" they've made.
Click the following link to watch the 10 minute segment that aired 4/3/08 on WGBH (PBS) "Greater Boston" program hosted by Emily Rooney. You might need QuickTime on your computer to view it.