Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Continued Hypocrisy of the NCAA

The NCAA announced on Friday that it will ban the use of 18 Native American nicknames and mascots it considers "hostile or abusive" during its postseason tournaments beginning early next year. NCAA President Miles Brand added Friday, "The NCAA objects to institutions using racial/ethnic/national origin references in their intercollegiate athletics programs."

Among the schools that are affected is the University of Illinois (Fighting Illini), Bradley(Braves), Florida State (Seminoles), Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Savages), and 13 other schools. Among the schools not affected is San Diego State (Aztecs), Cal State Stanislaus (Warriors), North Carolina Pembroke (Braves), and countless other schools that use racial/ethnic/national origin references such as my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. If you think that's confusing, wait until you read the fine print of this new NCAA policy according to Greg Couch:

The Fighting Illini never will be in the NCAA tournament again. In the most telling statement so far in the American-Indian mascot controversy, the NCAA announced Friday that it will prohibit teams with offensive Indian mascots and imagery, including the University of Illinois, from competition.

Wait a minute. I've got that wrong. Teams with American-Indian mascots can compete, but they can't go to postseason tournaments.

Wait a minute. Wrong again. Teams with American-Indian nicknames can compete in the regular season and the postseason, but they can't take the mascots with them when they get to the postseason and can't have the offending name on their uniforms.

Except in football, where it's OK.

So basically it's your typical non-sensical NCAA policy. Not only is the policy non-sensical, but this idea that all Native American nicknames are offensive is idiotic. There is certainly some offensive Native American nicknames like Redskins or Savages, but many of the nicknames the NCAA has deemed offensive are meant to honor Native Americans such as the Florida State Seminoles (who actually have the approval of the local Seminole tribe to use their name) or the Central Michigan University Chippewas. Not to mention, if all ethnic/national origin/national origin references in nicknames are offensive as Miles Brand believes, where do we stop in banning these offensive nicknames? Should the NCAA ban nicknames like the Trojans, the Spartans, the Sooners or the Fighting Irish? Mike Downey has a brilliant tongue-in-cheek column calling for the end of the use of the nickname the Fighting Irish:
I want that leprechaun put to sleep.

Do you hear me, NCAA? I don't want to see that darn leprechaun at Notre Dame's games anymore. No more of that goofy green suit. No more of that hokey hat. Most of all, no more of that offensive, insensitive, insulting, dehumanizing dance.

As a proud Irish-American, I demand that you make the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame get rid of that stupefying, stereotypical mascot of theirs. And that little jig of his. And I mean pronto, if you'll excuse my use of Indian lingo. Ladies and gentlemen of the NCAA, I implore you. Do that thing you do. Do what you did Friday, when your executive committee announced that it no longer would tolerate any "hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery."

A leprechaun is all that.

He is mischievous by nature. He is up to no good. He clearly is abusive.

Have you ever seen him treat Notre Dame's enemies with any kindness?

And what of that big, crooked stick in his hand? He doesn't carry that cudgel because he is lame. It isn't a cane. A leprechaun doesn't limp. Look at that little fool do his dance. He moves fine. No, a shillelagh looks like a weapon to me. You wouldn't let a Seminole or an Illini walk around a football stadium with a bow and arrow, would you?

I can guess what you are thinking. You're thinking an Irish-American is not an oppressed minority. Or hasn't been one.

Well, you couldn't be more wrong. Irish immigrants were given a very bad time in America when they first came here. They were treated as suspicious foreigners. Their ancestry and accents were mocked. They were maligned as "Micks" and stigmatized as brawling drunks.

Therefore, I would like you righteous brothers and sisters at the NCAA to put an end to the degradation of this "Fighting Irish" slur once and for all. A lot of us don't fight. I don't fight. Well, I did toss a guy out of a bar in Greece last summer, but he was drunker than I was.

The NCAA has made a good start. The actions it took Friday gave notice to the Bradley Braves and Central Michigan Chippewas and Utah Utes that they had better take all of their Native American garb, arrowheads, weapons and war paint and dump the whole pile into a Dumpster.

If these people want to host a postseason competition ever again, they will have to abide by the NCAA's rules and lose the Indian theme.

You, noble warlords of the NCAA, are taking no prisoners. University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux? What do you care if there are Sioux who don't care? So what if there are remaining members of the Sioux tribe who are honored by this legacy? Your edict has come down. You have spoken. The next time North Dakota plays for a national championship, its mascot had better be Buffalo Bill.

OK, so a lot of us happen to believe that tribal names are not unto themselves offensive. Illini, Seminole, Chippewa, Choctaw--these don't seem so bad to us. They have history and dignity. We have entire states named for Indian tribes, for heaven's sake. What do you think the word "Illinois" is, anyway--French? Its origin is Algonquin.

I really wonder sometimes if there is anyone in the headquarters of the NCAA in Indianapolis that has a brain cell firing. After this new policy on banning offensive mascots and their refusal to have a college football playoff, but allow teams to play 12 regular season games, I'm beginning to have my doubts.