COULD six Braves, seven Indians, six Warriors, and the occasional Chieftain, Aztec, and Ute be wrong? What about the Fighting Illini, Choctaws, and Seminoles? Then why is the NCAA, inserting itself again in the proud traditions of these Division I, II, and III teams and the schools they represent on the playing field?
In an oh-so-politically correct move, the NCAA has asked 30 schools to consider whether their team names are demeaning to Native Americans. Never mind that these nicknames are meant as an expression of strength and nobility. Never mind that they are part of proud traditions and meant to honor Native American culture. Never mind that the Utes and Seminoles and others have no problem with the schools use of their tribal names.
The NCAA s Minority Interests and Opportunities Committee appears to think otherwise. It would like to see this tradition retired, as it first indicated in 2002.
We would agree that provocative and pejorative nicknames like the Redmen and the Savages, as well as mascots that perpetuate stereotypes, have no place. Miami University of Ohio, for example, made the right decision in changing the name of its teams from Redskins to Redhawks.
We can t say the same for Eastern Michigan University, however, which bowed to pressure and switched several years ago from the Hurons to become the Eagles. It s difficult to perceive the innocuous name Hurons as somehow disrespectful. Central Michigan University, to its credit, chose to remain the Chippewas.
But offensive stereotypes aren t limited to college sports.
Professional franchises harbor such warlike aggressiveness as the tomahawk chop, an incessant and annoying display at every Atlanta Braves game. The goofy image of the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo also comes to mind.
But collegiate names were not chosen to reflect derision, only pride and spirit. If the NCAA is now allowed to dictate changes, what is to prevent an expanded list of politically incorrect nicknames?
The NCAA should be applauded for the direction it has taken on issues of gender and diversity, and for its role in overseeing college sports. But it should leave the name game to the schools and the communities they serve.
The NCAA governing body will probably meet in August to decide whether it should or can ban Indian imagery from America s colleges and universities. You d think it would have more important things to do.