Turmoil with NCAA mascots
Don’t get me wrong: I love college sports. I love the NCAA. But I am tired of their rules. Their long list of compliance rules and regulations has caused me and other college athletes turmoil for many years.For example, every semester, University of Wisconsin athletes are required to gather for a meeting to hear the long list of NCAA compliance guidelines. Over and over again, Wisconsin student athletes are reminded not to take money from boosters, stay 100 feet away from the Shoe Box, not let their coaches buy them a Coke and not talk to agents.Most of the rules are fair. Some are ridiculous, such as the latest NCAA rule banning the use of American Indian nicknames and mascots during postseason tournaments.The ruling, affecting 18 colleges, was established to “adhere to the core values of the NCAA Constitution pertaining to cultural diversity, ethical sportsmanship and nondiscrimination.”The NCAA goes on to say, “All institutions are encouraged to promote these core values and take proactive steps at every NCAA event through institutional event management to enhance the integrity of intercollegiate athletics related to these issues. … As a national association, we believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at the championship events that we control.”“Hostile” and “abusive” mascots? Give me a break.What about professional teams? Sure, there was a slight debate when the Braves played the Indians in the ’95 World Series. But when Jimmy Carter threw out the first pitch that led the Braves’ victory in game six, talk went slight.It’s not like these universities dishonor American Indians (with the exception of the Southern Oklahoma State University Savages). Most university faithful are proud to honor their American Indian nicknames. You’ll never hear a cheer along the lines of “Go … fight … kill the Indians!”By having an American Indian nickname, these universities honor and pay tribute to our country’s originators.The Florida State Seminoles were one of the 18 colleges affected by the new NCAA policy. Florida State has had a long-standing tradition of paying tribute to the Seminole tribe. As soon as the press release announcing the new ban hit the papers, the Seminole faithful, the university and the Seminole Tribe quickly took action, threatening to sue.Then, less than a week after announcing the mascot ban, the NCAA decided to allow Florida State to use its Seminole nickname and Chief Osceola mascot in postseason play.“The staff review committee noted the unique relationship between the university and the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a significant factor,” NCAA Senior Vice President Bernard Franklin said in a press release. “The decision of a namesake sovereign tribe, regarding when and how its name and imagery can be used, must be respected even when others may not agree.”Central Michigan is another college that has had a long-tradition of honoring the Chippewa Tribe. Central Michigan has released a statement with the tribe saying, “CMU’s continued use of the name is dependent on whether the Chippewa people in our region continue to feel that CMU’s use of the name is in fact a proud reflection and is used with dignity and respect.”The Florida State and Central Michigan debacles prove that the NCAA spent little time researching just how “hostile” and “abusive” American Indian nicknames and mascots could be.Chippewa Indian Tribe spokesman Joseph Sowmick agreed that the NCAA has gone too far.“The rich relationship that the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has with CMU cannot be determined by an outside entity without contacting the institution and the government involved. Any arbitrary decision from an outside source regarding university-tribal relations is not acceptable.”The NCAA left one university off the list of 18. North Carolina-Pembroke was able to keep its nickname, the Braves, due to the long history of the university admitting a high percentage of American Indians. More than 20 percent of the university students are American Indian.Bravo, NCAA. Way to do your homework.Still, if the NCAA can oversee one university for its tradition of American Indian tribute, why weren’t other schools like Florida State, Central Michigan or Utah looked into for their tributes to local tribes?It is easy to point the finger at all schools with American Indian nicknames; however, the NCAA should only have banned offensive and demeaning nicknames. Nicknames with offensive undertones like Savages, Redmen, Indians and Braves should be banned.It’s a sensitive topic, but not a complex one. What’s next? Animal-nickname bans? Plant-nickname bans? Please.