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In yesterday’s ’Skins Watch report, I mentioned the new inflatable tunnel that the football team at South Grand Prairie High School in Texas had recently unveiled (see above). I learned about that tunnel last weekend from longtime reader Chris Mycoskie, who pointed me toward a photo of it on Twitter. It seemed so over the top that I simply quote-tweeted it with the words “Holy shite” and no further comment.
Amidst the somewhat predictable responses — some lamenting that the school would take this route, others mocking me for being “woke” — was a tweet from someone named Art Senato. It read, “I’m the head baseball coach at this school. I can only speak for my program. I eliminated the spear and tomahawk from our baseball uniforms in an attempt to get ahead of what I know is coming. We have to be better.”
I wanted to learn more, so I asked Senato if he’d consent to an interview. After some scheduling hiccups, we spoke by Zoom yesterday evening. Here’s a transcript of our conversation (edited and condensed for clarity and length).
Uni Watch: First, please tell me a little bit about South Grand Prairie High School. How many students are there? What sort of community is the school part of? Give me a sense of the context in which you work.
Art Senato [shown at right]: Sure. Our enrollment is right around 3,400 in a normal school year, which this isn’t. We’re a very diverse school, majority Hispanic. We’re definitely a majority-minority school. Blue collar in regards to socioeconomic status.
The school was built in 1969. And the city of Grand Prairie has changed a bunch since then. But a lot of our kids, their parents went to school here, their grandparents went to school here. So it’s a pretty tight community. I grew up in Arlington, not very far away, but my dad worked in Grand Prairie.
UW: And for people who don’t know where Grand Prairie is — and I didn’t know myself, frankly, until I looked it up — would it be fair to say you’re a part of the Dallas suburbs?
AS: Oh, yes. Yes, we’re definitely a suburb of Dallas.
UW: How long have you been coaching baseball there?
AS: This is my sixth year coaching here, and my 29th in education.
UW: You teach as well as coach.
AS: Yes, I’ve taught American government up until this year. This year I’m working with kids who have failed classes in the past and I’m trying to help them recover the credit.
UW: Have the school’s teams always been called the Warriors?
AS: Yes, they’ve always been the warriors. School colors are red and gold. As far back as I can remember, we’ve always had the Native American imagery. Probably in the last couple of years you tend to see a little bit less of it than in the past. Some years we have a live mascot, some years we don’t. It just depends on whether kids try out for it. But the community — especially, you know, the older alumni — they’re very proud of the Warrior mascot. They’re very very proud of the Native American imagery.
UW: Before you made the recent change to your uniforms, what did they look like?
AS: One jersey says “South” and one says “Warriors.” For our hat, we’ve had the “S” with a tomahawk on it, very similar to the Atlanta Braves. We haven’t really had any any Native imagery on the jerseys. Our practice shirts had a spear.
UW: So when did you decide to change that, and why?
AS: This summer we talked about it — my assistant coach, who graduated from here, and I. We’d talked about it in the past. There was talk about maybe getting the “S” with the tomahawk on our left chest of the jersey — like, it’s already on the cap and now I’m going to put on the jersey. I didn’t feel good about that. Then this summer, with the whole Redskins thing, as soon as Daniel Snyder finally decided to drop “Redskins,” I picked up my phone and sent a text to my assistant coach and said, “Hey, we probably need to drop this.” Take the spear off of our practice T-shirts and take the tomahawk off the hat and just go with “SGP” on it.
Because you know there’s been little rumbles here and there about it. Martin High School in Arlington, they’re also the Warriors, and they dropped the Native American headdress from their logo. It was part of their logo, and they dropped it and their alumni went absolutely nuts about it. So between them dropping theirs and then the Redskins, I felt we needed to get out ahead of this. I just said, “I think that’s the right thing to do.” And I’d rather get ahead and be ahead of the curve.
UW: Prior to the Redskins changing their team name, did you have some misgiving about this imagery on the cap and on the practice shirt? Like, was this something you had been thinking about, and maybe had an inclination to do something about even before the Redskins made their change?
AS: You know, when I got hired here six years ago, one of the things I was really kind of surprised about was that the Native American imagery was still used so much — not just here, but in other schools. And this is the first time that I’ve been in a school that’s used Native American imagery. So I was kind of surprised that there’s still a lot of that going on, to be honest with you. But when you get in here, and you see it all over the place, I mean, that’s just who we are, the Warriors.
UW: It normalizes it, right?
AS: Right, exactly. I’m not saying it’s right. But you become normalized to it. And then it takes something like the Redskins to just make you sit back and say, “Wait a minute, we’re not really doing the right thing. We need to do the right thing.” So as a coach I said, “Look, all we can control is what we do in baseball.” So we’re not going to have it, we’re going to get rid of it. We can control our hats. We can control our website. If we’ve got some wind screen that decorates the bleachers that we’ve got, either take it down or get something to put over it. Because we need to get out in front of this and take care of what we can control. We can definitely be a leader and take control.
UW: There are lots of different stakeholders in a situation like this. Let’s start with the players themselves — the students who wear the uniforms. How did they respond to your move? And did you talk to them about it?
AS: They asked why. And that’s good — I want them to ask why, I want them to ask questions. I explained to them that if it offends people, even if it’s a small minority of people, we need to be sensitive to that. You know, we just need to be better, meaning better in everything that we do, and that includes our new hats. And they’re still gonna look good, you know, it’s still gonna be the school colors. And if anything, like I explained to my assistant coach, the cap with the “S” and the tomahawk, people didn’t always know that that stands for South Grand Prairie. But if we put the “SGP” on there, that identifies us. “Oh, yeah, that’s South Grand Prairie.” I want our brand to be identifiable — identifiable in a good way.
UW: What about the school administration?
AS: I shared it with our principal and he was like, “Yeah, that’s probably a good idea. And you’re right, you’re making the right decision to get out in front of this.” You know, I’m not a decision maker in the school building when it comes that kind of stuff. But I think I kind of get the feeling that at some point, in the near future, that more people are gonna get involved in that discussion. The easiest thing to do would be just to, you know, rebrand the logo and just have one logo and just “SGP” and that’s it. But that’s not my decision. All I can do is take care of my sport.
UW: What about parents and other members of the community? How have they responded?
AS: Some of them responded positively and some, you know, they don’t understand. “I think we should keep the Native American imagery” or “It’s part of the school’s history and tradition.” I mean, I agree it’s tradition. But sometimes not all traditions are good. I mean, hazing in fraternities, that’s a tradition. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good tradition. I mean, the world’s changed and things that were acceptable to the majority of people 20, 30, 40 years ago, they’re not acceptable today. Things have changed in the way people think. And the last thing I want, for any organization I’m a part of, is to be linked with something that would make people have a negative perception of us because of, you know, a logo, or what we’re wearing. I mean, that’s something we can control, right? So I’m gonna lead from the front and be the example.
UW: Fans of teams that use Native American imagery, like the Braves or the Kansas City Chiefs, sometimes do things like the tomahawk chop, or wearing headdresses, or doing Indian war whoops, and things of that nature. Have South Grand Prairie fans done things like that over the years? And if so, have they continued to do it even after you changed the uniform?
AS: I think that’s been something that’s happened in the past. I don’t see it very often now. I mean, the tomahawk chop, you won’t see that at any of our baseball games. Football, you may see it every once in a while, but I don’t think it’s near as prevalent as what it was. I know when we played them when I was in high school, it was there. I mean, it was very prevalent, but that’s, 32, 33 years ago.
UW: What about the coaches for the other sports at the school? Have any of them said anything to you, either positively or negatively? Have any of them said they want to follow your lead?
AS: No, no one’s said anything to me.
UW: It seems like the football team might be doubling down on the Native American imagery, at least based on that new inflatable tunnel they were recently showing off.
AS: When we saw the picture of the tunnel — actually, my wife saw it first. And I didn’t know what she was watching, because the football game was a live feed from out of town last week. And I just heard her say, “Whoa — they got a new run-through tunnel, you might want to take a look at it.” And then I saw it. I also saw a tweet from one of our school board members and I know it’s been brought to the school board’s attention.
And once again, it’s not my sport, so I don’t know all the details about about that. But it was just kind of an “Oh boy” moment. When I saw your tweet, I wasn’t surprised. I was like, “Man, this is not the look we want for our school, in our community.” Just my opinion.
UW: When you responded to my tweet, you said you removed the Native imagery from the baseball uniforms. And then you said — and you’ve also said it in the course of this conversation — you said, “We have to be better.” What do you mean by that?
AS: We want people to respect how we think. You always want someone to respect how you think, respect your feelings, right? Well, we need to reciprocate that. We need to give that back. And just because one group of people says it’s okay to use it, that doesn’t mean that other groups of people are gonna think it’s okay. And we just, we have to be better. We need to be aware of the world we’re living in. Things you could get away with more 30 years ago — it wasn’t recorded, it wasn’t reported. But now [holds up cell phone], everyone’s a reporter.
So we need to have tough conversations. And it’s okay to hear the other side. And if you disagree, that’s fine, but we need to have level-headed conversations. Both sides need to listen to each other. And we need to have some kind of common ground about what’s what’s going to be the best thing for the school, for the community. And you know, what I’ve explained to some alumni who have talked to me about it is “Hey, we can still be the Warriors. If we need to have some kind of a logo or mascot, we can have like a Spartan-looking dude as our mascot.” Instead of using the Native American imagery. And as a government teacher, I mean, that’s something that I used to always drive home to my students about how Native Americans were treated by by our government. And, you know, I love my country. But there are some things we’ve done in the past that make you shake your head. And we need to acknowledge those things, and we just need to be more sensitive. Yeah. And that doesn’t make you soft. I mean, I think it just makes you a good person.
UW: I think that’s everything from my end. Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you want me to know?
AS: I responded to your tweet because I wanted the world to know that there are people here who do get it and who are making an effort and are trying. Because something we all do, and I know I’m guilty of it at times myself, is painting with a broad stroke. I mean, I have pride in being a South Grand Prairie Warrior, and when we’re attacked, if I feel like we’re being attacked, I want to come to our defense as much as I can. And as much as I can, some things are indefensible, but as much as I can, to not let there be a perception of our school and our community that’s, like, “What are they thinking there?” So once again, I’m trying to lead from the front and and be an example for the for the kids who I coach.
Faaaascinating. Interestingly, the photo of Senato on the baseball team’s website
shows him wearing the old tomahawk cap. He said he’s working to get that photo changed, along with other staff photos on the site. Update: He’s now removed the photo.
I want to thank Senato for his time and for sharing his story, and also for being a coach and teacher during this uniquely challenging year.
Too good for the Ticker: How awesome are these beer can designs inspired by Pantone swatches? In addition to being clever, they’re also informative, because they show the actual color of each brew! You can learn more about them here.
(I somehow lost track of who let me know about this one. If that person wants to speak up, I’ll gladly credit him or her.)
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Press Pin reminder: After two days, we’re now down to 51 Uni Watch 2020 Press Pins remaining. As you probably know by now, this year’s design is a riff on the 1951 Dodgers press pin, with a mask thrown in to capture the spirit of this crazy year:
The Dodgers pin was a phantom, because Bobby Thomson’s “shot heard ’round the world” kept the Dodgers out of the Series, but it’s still a great design, and we’re proud to reference it with this year’s press pin, which is available here while supplies last.
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: The Prospect League, which is a summer collegiate wooden bat league, has unveiled the identity of their newest team, the Johnstown Mill Rats (Erik Spoonmore).
College/High School Football News: Georgia State certainly has some unique helmets, with a traditional-style logo on one side and a wordmark/uni number mashup on the other (from Mike Chamernik). … Virginia Tech DL Amaré Barno has earned Frank Beamer’s No. 25 jersey this weekend, as Tech goes white-maroon-white against BC (from Andrew Cosentino). … Speaking of BC, they have a new equipment trailer (from Bill Abley). … Red-red-grey for Troy this weekend (from Ben Whitehead). … UNC is going blue-white-blue tomorrow against Florida State (from James Gilbert). … Virginia is going mono-white against Wake Forest (thanks, Jamie). … Georgia Southern is wearing white at home tomorrow because their opponent, UMass, hasn’t yet received their full road uniform set (from Shane Bua).
Hockey News: A newspaper deliverer in Orcas Island, Wash., wore a different hockey jersey every day to cheer up people along his route (from Dustin Jensen). … New Canucks signings G Braden Holtby and D Nate Schmidt will wear No. 49 and No. 88, respectively (from Wade Heidt). … Avalanche alternate captain Nathan MacKinnon has hinted that the Avs’ new alternate uni will feature the colors of the Québec Nordiques. Of course, the Nordiques relocated from Quebec City to Denver in 1995 (from Moe Khan).
Soccer News: The Scottish Challenge Cup has a new name — the SPFL Trust Trophy — and logo (thanks, Jamie). … New third kit for Argentine side San Lorenzo, which is Pope Francis’s favorite club (from Ed Żelaski). … Also from Ed: Mexican side Pumas UNAM, which is closely associated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, is honoring former university president Guillermo Soberón Acevedo with a memorial patch, something rarely seen in soccer.
Grab Bag: Dublin GAA has unveiled their new kits (from Phillip Santos). … New logo for restaurant chain Chester’s Chicken (from John Cerone). … Here’s a question for you: Would you buy supermarket-branded shoes? If you’re European and a fan of the Lidl chain, the answer is apparently yes. And I can’t really blame them — they’re dynamite! (From James Gilbert.) … Here’s a great article about Penn’s bowling teams, dating to the 19th century (from Kary Klismet). … Also from Kary: new athletics logo for Rhodes College (also from Joe Cody). … One more from Kary: Syracuse’s Carrier Dome’s new roof has developed a leak.
That’s it for this week. Enjoy Phil’s weekend content, stay well, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. — Paul