I’ve got some thoughts on the NCAA’s ban on schools using Native American mascots in post-season events. In a word, dumb. Not because I don’t think Native American mascots are offensive, or at least, inappropriate, because I do. But the NCAA’s ruling makes little sense.
Basically, it’s wildly inconsistent and unenforceable. What college sports get, by far, the most attention? Football and men’s basketball. So, realistically, the ban affects only those sports to the general public. But the NCAA doesn’t control the post-season in football, so the ban pretty much covers men’s basketball. If it’s not a blanket ban, it’s immediately a bad thing. Then, let’s say the ban stands up in court and is in place this coming NCAA tournament. What does CBS do? Can their announcers make no references to mascots like Illini, Seminoles, and Utes? Can they not show crowd shots of groups of fans wearing clothes with Native American references? Does CBS have to edit the audio feed to ensure that no cheers containing Native American references make it through the the viewers at home? Silly. The NCAA tried to make a bold stand, but knowing that they have no justification to do so or enforcement to carry out the policy, they watered it down into something that embarrasses them rather than the schools in question.
As I said, though, I do think Native American mascots are inappropriate. The general argument for them is that it is a way of honoring the fierceness and resolve of Native Americans. I must roll my eyes at that suggestion. Not to go all <a href=”http://howardzinn.org/default/”>Howard Zinn</a> on you, but it seems like we spent roughly 200 years using psychological, crude biological, and traditional war methods to get the Natives off land we wanted. We (We being all of us of white, European ancestry) broke pretty much every good faith treaty the Natives ever signed with us. When we had decimated them to the point they could no longer offer resistance, we forced them to either turn their back on their culture and assimilate into the new American culture, or we moved them off to isolated reservations where they were locked into lives of poverty and want. And then we want to “honor their spirit” by naming sports teams after them? Seems more than a little ironic to me.
People often use the Notre Dame example to counter bleeding heart, pinko liberals like me who have the nerve to suggest dropping Native American mascots. I believe Notre Dame was set up to educate Irish Catholic orphans from the Chicago area, making Fighting Irish a perfectly appropriate choice to identify ND’s athletic teams. Was Florida State set-up to educate Seminoles? How many Utes are enrolled at Utah? Is the faculty and administration of Illinois made up primarily of descendants of the Illini tribes?
Quite frankly, I don’t care if any of these schools change their mascots. I don’t find teams that have names of particular tribes to be offensive, just inappropriate and archaic. There have been many schools that have changed their mascots over the years, whether it was to drop Native American references (St. John’s and Marquette being two examples) or to quietly de-emphasize a school’s agricultural roots (Nebraska and Wichita State dropping the “corn” and “wheat” references from everyday mascot usage). College sports are full of colorful mascots based on interesting local history (Jayhawks, Hoosiers, Sooners to name three). If the schools that use Native references believe those mascots best sum up what their state is all about, they should be free to continue to use them. But suggesting that using those mascots is an attempt to honor the people we booted off the lands to build the universities is garbage. At least it is in the 21st Century.
Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star had an excellent <a href=”http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050810/COLUMNISTS01/508100430/1034″>column</a> on this subject earlier this week as well. I had no idea about the origination of the term redskins and find it even more offensive now.