Redmen, seminoles and savages: PART II

Published 5 years ago -  - 5y ago 47


Image courtesy of Tom Woodward under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Boy, howdy! The big chiefs of some of the nation’s colleges and universities who sit on the Executive Committee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association forced some of their colleagues across the nation to circle the wagons and return fire. Presidents of Florida State University and the University of North Dakota issued statements last week, without reservation, blasting the committee’s Aug. 5 mandate that member schools remove or hide references to Native-American mascots and symbols.

Eighteen schools made the list for using“hostile or abusive” mascots, nicknames, and imagery. The committee said the schools could not use their symbols during the post-season championship tournaments beginning Feb. 1, 2006. Division 1-A football got a pass because the season is rushing upon them.

FSU’s T.K. Wetherell bravely mounted his attack with a three-page letter faxed to NCAA president Myles Brand. Wetherell’s ballistic missive ended a week that saw him round up the support of members of Congress, the governor, state legislators, alumni, faculty, staff, students, and more important, the Seminole Tribal Council.

Wetherell called the decision “seriously flawed and undemocratic,” and strongly urged the committee to reverse its decision by Aug. 29.

Charles E. Kupchella, president of the UND Fighting Sioux, sent his own scathing letter to Brand. In one of the less sarcastic passages, Kupchella noted that the last time the issue came up on his campus, the Office for Civil Rights spent a week without finding any violations.

“Did the Executive Committee find some things they missed, perhaps?” asked Kupchella. “Or does a committee in Indianapolis trump the Office for Civil Rights here, on the ground, in North Dakota?”

Brand issued a statement. “While I agree with and support the Executive Committee’s decision, neither I nor any member of the NCAA staff had a vote,” Brand said.

This is not the first time the NCAA has gone scalp hunting. In 2002, the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee ordered the University of North Carolina-Pembroke to explain why it used the “racially offensive” logo of a Native American along with the “Braves” nickname for its athletics teams.

By the way, the Lumbee people founded UNC-Pembroke in 1877.

This writer received several emails in response to last week’s column (Redmen, Seminoles, and Savages: The Scourges of Academe), in which I pointed out that no group is safe.

One reader wrote: “I echo your sentiments on the ‘how far will this go’ theme. If all it takes is a minority to get offended to force the NCAA’s hand, then hey–let me stoke the Ire of a few more Irishmen and we’ll take down that blasted leprechaun at South Bend.”

Another wrote: “As a 50 year member of the FSU Seminole Family I think a bit of levity (and facetiousness) is much in order regarding this issue.”

Some folks at Sam Houston State University took umbrage, though. Frank Krystyniak, SHSU public relations director tersely wrote: “The only ‘stupid’ people are those who do not understand the “Bearkat.” Your apology for your kindergarten characterization [regarding illiterate people who would be offended by unusually spelled words] will be accepted, if you are man enough to make it.”

Each of the SHSU emails was nasty, including some that called me “un-Christian,” comments that always contribute to a school’s reputation.

I wrote Frank and told him that I appreciate responses from readers, particularly when they are passionate about a topic. “It is curious to see, however, the confusion among Bearkats regarding the nature of your mascot. One quite friendly person let me know that a “bearcat is a MADE up animal . . . A bearcat is a kinkajou and isn’t our mascot. Thanks for the mention though!” Another told me: “There’s a reason that our mascot is spelled with a ‘k’, not a ‘c’. A bearkat is a kinkajou and this is the correct spelling.”

If the paragraph in question is read the way dedicated Bearkats interpreted it, then everyone associated with Yeshiva is an ancient Jewish patriot; everyone who graduated from St. Louis College of Pharmacy is a eutectic; and folks from the North Carolina School of Arts are preserved cucumbers.

I believe not. Just as I believe SHSU people are not stupid. How could they be? They are fellow Texans, and by definition, smarter than the average bear (kat or otherwise). Some are just poor readers of facecious Internet columns.

It appears everyone missed the irony of the committee’s goofy decision. The same chancellors and presidents who voted for the mandate will defend the freedom of expression of their faculty, regardless of how offensive and repugnant their classroom comments and behavior may be. In fact, folks like Frank tell members of the outraged public that their universities encourage the free exchange of ideas and expressions as long as they do not break the law or violate university policy.

And now, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked the NCAA to stop Jacksonville State University and the University of South Carolina from using the nickname “Gamecocks” because it supposedly promotes the sport of cockfighting.

Mundus vult decipi

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