Wednesday, August 10, 2005
NCAA bans use of Native American nicknames in Postseason Play: Let the Howling by the Right Wingers Begin.
The NCAA has recently announced a ban on schools use of Native American nicknames for some schools in postseason play. This will affect a number of schools but the three most focused on are the Florida State Seminoles, Utah Utes, and Illinois Fighting Illini.
The howling by Sportswriters, Republicans, and the generally uniformed has begun.
Here comes the criticism. What about the Fighting Irish? Isn’t that offensive to Irish people? The answer is no. The term Fighting Irish likely began as an abusive expression tauntingly directed toward the athletes from the small, private, Catholic institution, Notre Dame. Ironically, the term began as racist and religious discrimination directed towards Irish and Catholics. The term Fighting Irish developed as the school and its students began to overcome these racist and religious discriminatory obstacles and they chose it themselves in 1927 as a source of pride. This is far different than a group of white men choosing a Native American mascot and claiming they are honoring them by mocking their customs and institutions. This is also why the NCAA chose to allow North Carolina Pembroke to keep its Native American name because it is a school with a large Native American student body. (I disagree with this decision for the reasons that follow.)
Next claim: The Seminoles say it is not offensive to them, so why can’t Florida State use them as its mascot? The Florida Seminole Tribe works with FSU and endorses the use of the Seminole as a mascot. This does not include all Native Americans who identify themselves as members of the Seminole Tribe. This is only the Florida Tribe, not all Seminoles. Anyone who argues this point is actually engaged in racism. They believe that if one small group agrees with you, then all of that group must agree with you. Most of the Seminole Tribe is opposed to the use by FSU of the Seminoles as a team nickname. This is like arguing that if Clarence Thomas agrees with you, all blacks must agree with you.
The other claim you will hear often is the most racist. This one will involve the slippery-slope argument. It goes like this, if we ban Native American mascots and nicknames, then animal activists like PETA will insist that we ban animal names next. What they are trying to do is argue that if anyone is offended by something, it must be banned. This is a racist fallacy. They are equating Native Americans (i.e. human beings) with animals. The racists will also do this with other groups trying to prove the same (stupid) point. They will point to Pirates, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and say they should be banned because someone may be offended, i.e. my parents were killed by a tornado, hurricane or pirate therefore it must be banned. This reasoning also negates the ethnicity and the humanity of Native Americans, and it is racist.
Don’t believe the hype. The people who are fighting this decision by the NCAA are not fighting to keep a team nickname.
They are fighting to keep Americans from recognizing racism.