The Self-Righteous (Sadly Misguided) NCAA
I am normally a supporter of the NCAA. Their job is about as difficult and thankless as mucking out horse stalls or slopping pigs.
Think about it for a moment. How would you like to try and run an organization if half of your own members are trying to cheat and break the rules? What must that be like? It's ridiculous really; those that don't want to play by the rules should form their own league. Instead they force the NCAA to try and catch them, and those trying to maintain integrity have to play at a disadvantage. It's like forming a Bridge Club full of cheats, liars, and people who keep trying to change the rules of the game in the middle of a hand. Who would want to try and enforce the rules with a group like that? This is the unlucky and thankless job of NCAA officials. Every day they deal with universities and members trying to pull a fast one. Every day they listen to cheaters cry and whine because they actually receive punishment when caught.
However, I find myself between horror and disgust at the NCAA's most recent move to demand teams with (what the committee has deemed) offensive mascots and nicknames. According to them, these schools must cover ‘offensive logos' by February 1, 2006 and cannot wear them in championships after August 1, 2008.
First – horror
Yes, I know that we live in a very politically correct world. Yes, I am not in the habit of offending others myself and generally try to follow the rules of society. Yes, I even think there is some merit to some of the political correct movement Still, the move by the NCAA to ban all mascots having to do with Native Americans from the postseason is beyond the pale.
According to NCAA President Myles Brand, "The NCAA objects to institutions using racial/ethnic/national origin references in their intercollegiate athletics programs."
That's ridiculous. What's worse, the NCAA has been hypocritical in their enforcement of their latest fiat.
Why is it that multiple schools with a Native American mascot in its origins have been put on notice but not the San Diego State Aztecs? The Aztecs were once a great nation and people who were first butchered and then enslaved by Spanish Conquistadores. Their nation was destroyed, and their memory largely blotted out for hundreds of years until rediscovered by archaeologists and historians. Don't they matter – or is only Native Americans from the United States that count? Is it just me or is that not a contradiction and a clear indication of the selectiveness of this process?
Where is the NCAA outrage? Did they not issue a statement saying, "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"?
If they are going to live by that statement, then who is next – because apparently not all of their members seem to be toeing the company line. For the NCAA's convenience I have compiled a list of schools playing Division I-A football that officials were either too ignorant or too much the coward to note.
1. Notre Dame. Shouldn't Notre Dame be forced to remove its ethnically slurring nickname "The Fighting Irish"? What kind of image does that portray of the large Irish contingent in this nation? Isn't it a bit racist to insist that a school that names its mascot after a Native American is offensive but one that has a name of European ethnicity is not? I think it's high time Notre Dame have its mascot banned (to be consistent). A university panel should be formed to consider other possibilities such as, "The Frolicking Shamrocks" or perhaps "The Frosted Lucky Charms – We're not Delicious."
2. Or what about Mississippi Rebels? Clearly this could be offensive to anyone outside of the South – or anyone who considers themselves a patriot of the United States of America. Using the NCAA intelligencia's logic, this legacy from the Civil War should be banned if for no other reason than to honor the nation's armed forces. What pain and torment this must cause the average soldier to know that the nation they fight for has a college with a mascot meant to honor a rebellion put down only by shedding blood.
3. And oh my! If the ancient Greeks only knew their second proudest city had been reduced to nothing more than a mascot. The Spartans? If the recent guidelines from the NCAA are to be taken seriously then those taking their nicknames from "national origins" must start covering them. The San Jose State Spartans and Michigan State Spartans should be notified. How racist can you be? How insensitive can one get? Has anyone else noticed the crude caricature of "Sparty" at Michigan State games? Tell me a man with an oversized head and fake uniform is honoring the memory of the proud city-state of Sparta. Shouldn't the Greeks (an ethnic and national term) be lifted up for their contribution of Democracy in the United States of all places?
4. The University of Southern California and Troy have to change their mascot. It can no longer be the Trojans. This is yet another moniker that has its origins in an ancient – and once proud people. Where is the NCAA outrage? Where are the picketers and protests? Buy the USC band new uniforms and get rid of that ridiculous mascot that according to the NCAA is clearly insensitive and inappropriate.
5. What about the North Carolina Tar Heels? The most popularly held explanation for this name refers to the amount of tar, pitch and turpentine produced by the state during the Civil War. To be called a "Tar Heel" was originally meant as a slur against its inhabitants. Robert E. Lee apparently turned it into a beloved nickname by saying, "God Bless the Tar Heel boys." Still, what if a minority of the state's population still took it as an insult? Shouldn't North Carolina consider other alternatives? They would probably still like to keep their school colors so any mascot would need to match. How about the "Powder Puffs?" Wait – that wouldn't work because you might have women's groups protesting. How about "The Care Bears?" No…that one's probably trademarked. Confound it!
6. The Idaho Vandals? Here is a school nicknamed after a TRIBE of barbarian invaders that raped, pillaged, and destroyed portions of a civilized Roman society. Shouldn't they have the courtesy and decency not to name their mascot after a people group – especially one with this kind of historical reputation? This people group terrorized innocent women and children, burned libraries, and helped plunge Europe backwards in knowledge. Of all people, the university presidents of the NCAA should be horrified or don't they know the history of Western Civilization? Apparently they need a refresher course.
7. The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. Does everyone know the origins of the name Cajun? Cajun is actually a corrupted form of "Acadian." This region in what is now Canada was settled by the French. When Britain took control of the region generations later, the friction was palpable. On July 28, 1755 it was ruled these innocent, law-abiding citizens could be deported. Their lands, homes, possessions, and even their identity were essentially stripped. They were shipped to multiple destinations where they eventually have merged into their local culture. However, in Louisiana they found both a refuge and a place where they might build a "New France." There they have retained their native tongue (still speaking a dialect of French) and many of their customs to this day. According to NCAA rules, this mascot must go.
8. The Virginia Cavaliers, UCF Golden Knights, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, and Army Black Knights are all offensive to the minority of this nation who are pacifists. Knights in particular were a proud and select group of men in the Middle Ages. Not everyone could be a knight. They had their own rules and codes of what was deemed proper and genteel behavior (which they broke frequently in war). How is it that landless young men suited only to be squires are allowed to call themselves knights? Where is their armor or horse? Worse yet, no female was allowed to be a knight; this would have been an affront to those who proudly wore the title. Yes, this is yet another nickname that must go. Perhaps they could call themselves "Squires" or even "Knight Wanna-Be's" but to usurp the name Knight without even knowing what it entails is clearly insulting. Of course, even these names would be offensive to those of the Middle East who suffered incredible atrocities at the hands of so-called "Christian Crusaders." Even though Muslims are an ethnic minority in this nation, don't they count? Or, are they not as important to the NCAA as Native Americans due to recent events?
I could go on and on and on with this line of thought. For instance, the East Carolina Pirates is a name that glorifies men (and the occasional woman) who robbed, killed, raped, and pillaged. I doubt those of the 19th century who were victimized by the lawless group would think this name as fetching. Men died to stamp out piracy – including soldiers of the United States. Don't even get me started on the Oklahoma State and Wyoming Cowboys. Want to talk about a name Native Americans could reasonably despise? It was the cowboys and soldiers and settlers who drove them from their lands. Oklahoma's other major institution bears the nickname "Sooners." That isn't much better than cowboy since the term "sooner" has its origins in those who took the Native Americans' lands (with the permission of the United States government). The sooners were so nicknamed because they illegally claimed their plot of land by sneaking out before the proper date. Oklahoma has more Native Americans than any other state in the Union per capita; how would you like to have a choice of cheering for the Sooners or Cowboys – both of whom took your lands and placed your great grandparents on a reservation to die? Nor have we dealt with the Duke Blue Devils, Arizona State Sun Devils, or Wake Forest Demon Deacons all of which might reasonably be construed as offensive to a sizeable religious group in this nation - Christians. When is the last time you saw a Christian at a religious rally scream, "Go Satan!"?
Now for Disgust
The greatest irony of all is the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. This school, founded to help educate Native Americans, has a mascot (not surprisingly) reflecting its purpose and populace. They go by the moniker, "The Braves," even though their official mascot has been a red tailed hawk since 1991. The Lumbee Indian tribe actually picked "braves" when they helped found the school over 125 years ago. Despite protests from the Lumbee Indian Tribal Council, the school's athletic director, the school's chancellor, students, and alumni…the NCAA wants to strip the school of its proud heritage.
Iowa and Wisconsin are commended in the NCAA press release as a model for the future, but what makes them a model you ask? They claim to refuse to schedule any team with a mascot deemed offensive. Really? You could have fooled me. Apparently they are still playing the Michigan State Spartans as well as the Illinois Illini. If Iowa and Wisconsin were truly model citizens and so committed to their values, then they would be forfeiting any and all Big Ten contests against these ‘rogue' programs. Frankly, at some point they will be faced with the decision to withdraw from the Big Ten itself since nearly 20% of its membership is now culturally insensitive.
Here is the real kicker. Native Americans could care less. How little does the average Native American care? A Yahoo News article in September of 2004 quoted a poll conducted by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey. Its results showed only 9% of all Native Americans thought the name "Washington Redskins" was offensive. Only 14% of those who had college degrees were concerned with this name while a mere 6% of those without a college education cared.
Perhaps the next step the NCAA should take is to sue Webster and all of the English speaking people of the world. Starting with the word, "Indian" – all uses of it should be banned, especially any referencing the crude children's game "Cowboys and Indians." Then they can move on to abolish language like, "I have moved so much I feel like a gypsy." Such clear racism should be avoided at all costs. Or what about politicized words like "comrade"? Shouldn't the classic, A Comrade in Arms be removed from all libraries in North America given the history of the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam?
If college presidents really wanted to make a difference then perhaps they could start by spending their precious time raising funds to endow scholarships for the Native American community instead of wasting their time with decisions such as these. Perhaps they could give a portion of their own inflated salaries to serve as the seed money. Maybe they could visit one of the more poverty stricken Native American Reservations as a group, call a news conference, and bring attention to the plight of those who originally owned this country. Of course, that would take real action and authentic righteousness on their part and a dose of common sense – so don't hold your breath.