•  HOME 
  •  BOOKS 
  •  WWP 
  •  DONATE 
  • Loading

Follow workers.org on
Twitter Facebook iGoogle

NCAA to limit racist team names & mascots –in postseason

Published Aug 19, 2005 11:38 PM

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Executive Committee announced Aug. 5 that it would prohibit some colleges with what it terms “hostile or abusive” Indian imagery from hosting post-season basketball tournaments beginning in February 2006.

Eighteen team names and mascots—including Florida State University’s Seminole, Illinois’ Illini, and Southeastern Oklahoma State’s Savages—were on the list of offenders. Schools already selected as tournament sites would be asked to cover up any offensive logos.

This victory is the result of years of struggle by Native and non-Native students and other activists throughout the country. In recent years, some schools, pressured by progressive students, staff and faculty members, have taken the lead not only by changing the name of their teams and eliminating racist mascots, but, in the case of Wisconsin and Iowa, by refusing to schedule sports contests against schools that use Native team names or mascots.

While the NCAA announcement is a step in the right direction, unfortunately the decision lacks sufficient breadth. It applies only to the sport of basketball, and only to the college teams that make it to the post-season. The NCAA officials dragged through years of study even to make this ruling, and ultimately decided that they did not have the authority to force schools to change nicknames or logos in all circumstances.

Florida State has vowed to appeal the NCAA decision, continuing to insist that its team “honors” the Seminole people. “If Florida State wants to honor the Seminoles, then change the name ... to Florida Seminole University — that has dignity,” retorted Suzan Shown Harjo, president of the Morningstar Foundation in Washington, D.C.

“It’s something very different than a mascot or belittled entity,” Harjo continued. “People honor their institutions. But the first thing [pro-mascot supporters] do is skip species. They say, ‘Next, PETA will tell us not to use bears.’ Then they go off on leprechauns, insects, mythical beings — all non-human entities. That’s the point: Natives are dehumanized, turned into larger-than-life, or smaller-than-life, non-human beings.”

Some of the offending institutions such as Florida State have produced Native people to say that they approve of the use of the team names or mascots. This is a typical racist tactic used to confuse the public and to hide the fact that many Native people reject the idea that the use of Native mascots or team names honors their culture.

Charlene Teters (Spokane), a National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media vice president and longtime activist against the commercialization and use of Native team names and mascots, argued the point in a message posted on the group’s Web site. “Using our names, likeness and religious symbols to excite the crowd does not feel like honor or respect; it is hurtful and confusing to our young people. To reduce the victims of genocide to a mascot is unthinking, at least, and immoral at worst.”

The colleges are “not willing to give up the money,” according to long-time Anishnabe activist Vernon Bellecourt. He was referring to merchandising revenues and the resistance of some schools to change. “We would hope that [the NCAA decision] was the handwriting on the wall that would urge them to drop these team names and mascots.”

Millions of dollars are made every year by so-called amateur athletics at colleges. This money is made off the backs of talented athletes - hundreds of whom will not even be granted a diploma from the college for which they play. If schools such as Florida State and the University of Illinois really want to “honor” Native people, they could, for example, fund Native studies programs and scholarships for Native students with some of the money they have earned from their huge athletics programs and merchandising revenues.

The money made by the University of Illinois or Florida State pales in comparison to the revenues made by the owners of professional teams with vile team names or mascots such as the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians.

Information for this article was gathered from the AP wire service and also from the NCRSM website.