Big issue – the NCAA mascot debate – means big feedback. We received a couple thousand responses, and I would say it ran 65-35 in favor of my position, which is: While some mascots may make me personally uneasy, it isn't up to me, or the NCAA, to tell schools they are wrong.
There were many great letters, both pro and con, that were thoughtfully and intelligently written and reasoned. I wish there were a forum for them all. This was just a heck of an effort by the readers, even the ones who called me hostile and abusive names.
But you have to cut somewhere, and considering one guy even sent his actual senior thesis – 40-plus pages – I think what's published here is enough.
Now on to The People's Voice:
NCAA NICKNAMES ("Bureaucrats know best?" August 11, 2005)
Like the spokesman for the Florida Seminole Tribe said, "[This is] just another case of white men knowing what is best for Native Americans."
West Orange, N.J.
I am with you half the way, but the other half is just hot air. I am a biracial law student at South Dakota, and I, like you, see some logos, mascots and nicknames that are perfectly acceptable (Utah, FSU, UNC-Pembroke, Central Michigan are among the better ones).
However, unlike those tribes and institutions, no "Sioux" tribe has endorsed the UND Fighting Sioux; in fact, every tribe has passed resolutions condemning that mascot. First of all, the "Sioux" are the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota, and "Sioux" itself is a French bastardization of another native word meaning "snake" or "enemy." Having white guys in the Dakotas calling a tribe that they nearly annihilated the Fighting Snakes/Enemies is a bit rich.
Then there is the curious case of "Chief" Illiniwek. Has there ever been anything more painful than a Northside trust-fund baby painting himself up as a fictional member of a fictional tribe and dancing a fictional dance to the roars of other well-heeled suburban kids? That, Dan, is an affront to the now-disappeared Illini, Miami, Ohio and other Rust Belt Indians who fell before the United States' institutionalized greed and genocide.
That being said, your analysis is dead on: The NCAA is not the place to regulate mascot or name use. Ultimately, it is up to the good sense and moral direction of the member institutions to regulate these.
I agree with you completely. Some of the stuff makes me cringe, but it isn't up to me or the NCAA to decide what's right and what's wrong. It is up to the tribes and the individual schools.
Few Native Americans "feel a sense of pride to have their heritage so visible and celebrated" in the way of sport mascots. We don't want to be associated with such buffoonery. These mascots are nothing more than modern day minstrel shows. The fact is that it isn't our culture being visible or celebrated but a horrid interpretation garnered for pop consumption.
This is exactly why things should be dealt with on an individual basis. If the logo/mascot is what bothers you, what about the University of North Dakota's Sioux, which was designed by a Native American artist? The school has no mascot, so there is no buffoonery. I certainly believe UND has tried to be respectful.
As a University of North Dakota alumnus I often wonder on the mascot dilemma. I too am firmly on the fence ... What is truly sad in this foolishness are benefactors who threaten to pull support if a name is or is not changed. The bottom line is I support the UNIVERSITY of North Dakota whether they be the Sioux, Fighting Sioux or go back to their original name of Flickertails with the colors of green, white, and pink. Shakespeare said something about a rose, didn't he?
Grand Forks, N.D.
I attend Central Michigan University and we are going through this same crap because we are the Chippewas. The Chippewa tribe supports our use of the name, gets money from us using the name, and also supports our school.
So as you put it, who is to say what's best for these people? Not the NCAA.
I think the Chippewas' problem is they are making money FROM the NCAA. The NCAA always tries to ban anyone who does that.
As a member of federally recognized nation (Delaware) and an avid sports fan, I do find that schools that carry stereotypical names such as "Chiefs," "Warriors" or "Braves" carry on the injustice done to our people.
But you are right about the NCAA regulating schools with mascots and names that derive that from our Native American heritage. I believe those schools that have the backing of the tribe or nation for their mascot's name, such as the Florida State "Seminoles," should keep their mascot name.
The "Seminole" mascot that rides out into the end zone after each touchdown should be a real "Seminole" native; instead we see a white guy riding in with fake long, black hair, painted up and wearing chicken feathers (imitation eagle feathers) and slamming a spear into the grass. That in itself is degrading to our Native Americans.
If these schools are going to pay homage and bring "honor" to our people, then get some of them to enroll in their schools and make sure they receive their degrees just like everyone else. That would be justice, without another rich white-guy organization that has no idea making a decision for all Native Americans.
Matthew T. Watkins
Member of the Delaware Nation of Oklahoma
Again, I couldn't agree more. The schools would be well-served if they handled the mascots with more respect.
As a graduate student at the University of North Dakota, I can assure you that not everyone supports the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
I applaud the NCAA for having the courage to finally confront such a sensitive issue. Perhaps now our colleges and universities will be inspired to move in a direction that will be inclusive, which can result in meaningful progress on such a divisive issue. Your comments ... endorse the status quo, which clearly ignores the important issues of learning, social justice and responsibility in higher education.
Fair enough, but you are confusing the NCAA with higher education. They have nothing to do with one another.
It seems to me the mascots and names should be a sense of pride and a great way to keep Native American culture alive and in the mainstream. Maybe we can just include the actual Indians more in the process? I think by just getting rid of the name and the mascots we just end up forgetting about part of our culture as a whole country.
Why doesn't the NCAA invite the tribes to help with making the mascots more "politically correct" rather than just abandoning them?
You know, I hate to admit this . . . but I think Brian Bosworth, [who said,] "NCAA stands for National Communists Against Athletes," was right.
I go to Amherst College, which is an NCAA Division III program. Our mascot is Lord Jefferey Amherst, who is well known for very early chemical warfare. He used disease-ridden blankets to kill off thousands of Native Americans.
So how is it that the NCAA has no problem with Lord Jeff but does have a problem with Native American tribal names, if the consent of the tribe is given?
Thank goodness my alma mater, Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, Ill.), is a member of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). Trinity Christian's mascot is the Troll. Trolls from all over the Midwest overwhelmingly supported the use of this mascot at the college.
Though a protest was filed with the NAIA national office by a local group of billy goats, the league officers eventually ruled that TCC could keep its mascot and use it in postseason tournaments since trolls from the Midwest supported the mascot and do not find it offensive.
I believe the use of the hurricane name by the University of Miami is an outrage and a slap in the face to those who have had to suffer through the hurricanes that have swept through our state.
The exploitation of animals as mascots, such as the Florida Gator, I believe is the lowest form of commercialization. How much money is given to the gators who live in Florida? Is there a retirement fund set up to feed them when they get too old to hunt for themselves? Have they set up a relocation area for them for when a hurricane blows through their natural habitat and forces them to find shelter elsewhere?
I hear South Carolina would be willing to accept a select group of Gators there for relocation.
I am hydrophobic. Please ban the Pepperdine Waves.
Mountain View, Calif.
Is the NCAA aware it is based in Indianapolis, Indiana?
Santa Monica, Calif.
Any question that begins with "Is the NCAA aware . . ." is automatically answered "no."
Just how far is this PC going to go in the world of sports? Will they be banning the name Oklahoma from the jerseys of the Sooners and Cowboys due to Oklahoma being loosely translated as "land of the red man" in Cherokee?
As an avid Iowa Hawkeye fan, do I dare tell anyone that the Hawkeyes (and the state's nickname) were named after a popular Indian Chief Black Hawk? It was an honorary nickname given to him. This is a very slippery slope as almost every state name is affiliated with an Indian word.
Pretty soon we will have only mascots of flowers, like the Fighting Petunias and the Florida State Palm Trees. But wait, if we do that we will offend the birds and the bees, and we can't do that. Because you know that you can't talk about the birds and the bees and not end up in court.
I am an American . . . I have a MAJOR issue with the Minuteman moniker used by the U of Mass . . . it is hostile and abusive. I am a Greenpeace member . . . I have a problem with a whole slew of colleges. ETC. ETC.
As someone who went to UMass I can tell you I had a major issue with it also. Just try picking up girls at another campus with "Minuteman" hanging over your head.
If the NCAA's policy is taken to its logical conclusion, is there a nickname that could possibly withstand banishment?
I think you'd need to appease both the politically correct and ruthless profiteering wings of the NCAA. So how about: "The Hillarys, brought to you by Nike."
And yes, I know how much that joke (repeat, a joke), is going get in me trouble with some of you.
LANCE ARMSTRONG ("The hero of hope" July 24, 2005)
I couldn't resist the urge to include a great story stemming from my Lance Armstrong piece.
You wrote "Lance Armstrong is the most important athlete of our generation for all of that."
If that is true (and I don't disagree), then surely the hero of the previous generation was a Canadian runner named Terry Fox. Terry never won any international or even national competitions, but during his Marathon of Hope run in 1980/81 he also became a saint.
You think riding a bike in the French Alps for 2 to 6 hours/day for 20 days with 200 others is tough? Terry ran a full marathon each day for over four months (3339 miles). On one leg.
Terry did not accomplish his goal of running across Canada, and lost his battle with cancer. But he blew away his real goal of raising $1 from every Canadian to go toward the war against cancer. To date, more than $360 million has been raised worldwide for cancer research in Terry's name through the annual Terry Fox Run, held across Canada and in 60 countries around the world.
So as we heap the well-deserved glory on Lance, let's not forget to say thanks to this hero from the previous generation whose efforts probably helped enable Lance to be a survivor.
I had never heard this story but I looked it up and it is unbelievable. I encourage you to punch Terry Fox into the Yahoo! search engine. Lance is incredible, but he has nothing on Terry Fox.
- Native Americans