Long Island high school football returned Friday, and so did the Native American team names the state is in the process of removing.
The Amityville Warriors, which kicked off its season against the Eastport-South Manor Sharks, are among the 13 Long Island school districts affected by New York's decision in April to ban indigenous names, mascots and imagery. Schools have until the 2024-25 school year to change the names and remove the imagery from fields, uniforms and school buildings.
Amityville phased out the use of its Indian head logo over the past several years, but the "Warriors" name has remained. Fans in attendance at the game Friday, won 21-6 by Eastport-South Manor, said there's a difference between the imagery and the name the school teams wear.
“I don’t have a problem with removing the logos, and they’ve done that already," said Brian Katz of Amityville, whose son plays on the football team. "But the name 'Warriors?' It’s ridiculous to have them remove that. Warriors is not just a Native American name.”
The team name means a lot to John Vasquez, who won a Long Island Championship with Amityville in 2007 and a Suffolk title as a defensive back in 2009. Vasquez said one of his former teammates has the team name tattooed across his chest.
“The school’s beautiful, the name’s beautiful. And it fits us,” Vasquez said. “It’s a mindset. It could be anything you put your mind to. It’s an attitude, not a bad attitude, but an attitude that you carry."
The field’s goalposts and the team’s silver helmets, as well as banners around the field, still bear the name after the state Board of Regents voted on April 19 to unanimously pass the Native American mascot ban, affecting all public schools.
After the ban was passed, Amityville Superintendent Ed Fale told Newsday the district was hoping it could keep its “Warriors” name because the district had already removed the imagery.
The state’s guidance, however, said the ban includes the name “Warriors” and that if the school had used a team name and imagery connected to indigenous nations or people at any time, it would have to change the team name.
In June, the Amityville school board agreed to comply with the ban but reserved the option of challenging the state’s order in court.
The school's athletic director, Evan Farkas, declined to comment Friday.
Districts that are not in compliance risk the loss of state aid and the removal of school officers.
“These guys are the Warriors. They fight and claw for everything,” Katz said. “This is not one of the wealthiest towns in the county, and what it’s going to cost the school and the taxpayers to remove every piece of Warrior name and logo? It’s unfair to the taxpayers, it’s unfair to the students, it’s unfair to the teachers and staff members who are invested in this place.”
The ban also states that school officers and employees will not be allowed to wear apparel with banned mascots and names on school grounds beginning in the 2024-25 school year.
That rule does not apply to fans attending games. That's an April amendment to the original, December proposal, which said that no individuals on school grounds could wear such apparel.
“Warrior will forever be instilled in me,” Vasquez said. “That’s never going to go away ... It’s a part of me, and it shaped me into who I am today.”