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Stereotype of the Month Entry
(8/9/05)


Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Aug 9, 2005

Nickname Ruling Lacks Common Sense

JOEY JOHNSTON

TAMPA -- From its headquarters in Indianapolis no pun intended the NCAA last week handed down a ruling that smacks of political correctness gone haywire.

So what do you think?

The Florida State Bulldogs?

The Florida State Tigers?

The Florida State Gold?

The Florida State Bowdens?

No, they are the Florida State Seminoles. Always have been. Always should be.

Not according to the NCAA's executive committee, which pointed to 18 schools using Indian mascots or nicknames that it deemed "hostile or abusive." The NCAA said those schools wouldn't be allowed to host NCAA-run championship events unless changes were made.

What's more, teams "must take reasonable steps" to cover up the "offensive" logos at championship events. (Like an NCAA Tournament basketball game, when media members are prohibited from going to press row with a drink, unless the cup carries the logo of an NCAA-sponsored beverage.)

Rendered irrelevant, at least in the NCAA's eyes, is this: The Seminole Tribe of Florida finds the Florida State Seminoles to be neither hostile nor abusive. The tribe has encouraged and endorsed FSU's use of "Seminoles."

In fact, tribe members have worked with FSU in designing the clothing of Chief Osceola and the staging of his pregame ride aboard the horse, Renegade. Does that sound hostile or abusive?

Seminoles: Not A Stereotype

Here's the problem: The NCAA ruling actually lacks sensitivity and common sense.

It fails to differentiate between the Southeastern Oklahoma State Savages and FSU Seminoles.

Savages? An ugly-sounding stereotype, downright offensive to an entire race.

Seminoles? It's a lesson in Florida history. The Seminole Tribe was unconquered, never losing a war, never signing a treaty. Seminoles? Not a derogatory term. It's the actual name of the tribe.

Seminoles. Not to be confused for Redskins. Or Redmen. And certainly not Savages.

Here's a mixed message. Earlier this year, the Seminole Tribe of Florida spoke to a lower NCAA committee, which decided against an outright ban of Indian mascots.

But the executive committee has handed down this overruling ultimatum, saying the Oklahoma Seminole Nation, the largest group of Seminoles outside Florida, was not supportive.

Sensitivity Gone Overboard

Immediate reaction to the NCAA ruling was borderline comical. Would Notre Dame dispense with its "Fighting Irish" leprechaun because it offended Irish people? Do the Miami Hurricanes offend the hurricane-ravaged residents of Florida?

Coming soon to Gainesville, just before the fourth quarter: "We Are The Persons Of Old Florida."

When Chief Osceola (an FSU student) rides into Doak Campbell Stadium and plants his flaming spear at midfield, it continues a popular pregame tradition that began in 1978.

From an outsider's perspective, maybe that could be toned down. Is it offensive? Not according to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which had a hand in the development of that tradition. I'll trust its judgment over the NCAA's.

"It's only a name," FSU free safety Pat Watkins said. "We don't walk around outside of football saying 'We're Seminoles!' or trying to be Native Americans."

You know where this is headed. To the courts. Who has the best lawyers? Meanwhile, common sense and the Seminole Tribe of Florida is being ignored.

Rob's reply
>> Seminoles: Not A Stereotype <<

As I responded in a letter to the editor:

Joey Johnston misstates the NCAA's position. The NCAA didn't say "Seminoles" was stereotypical. It said "Seminoles" creates a hostile or abusive environment.

How? The name "Seminoles" creates a hostile environment when a warrior on horseback throwing a flaming spear encourages fans to think of Native people as savage, bloodthirsty killers. See Smashing People:  The "Honor" of Being an Athlete for more on this point.

>> Seminoles? Not a derogatory term. It's the actual name of the tribe. <<

Duh. Does Johnston seriously think the NCAA didn't know "Seminoles" was the tribe's actual name?

>> Seminoles. Not to be confused for Redskins. Or Redmen. And certainly not Savages. <<

But equally at fault in creating a hostile and abusive environment.

>> Is it offensive? Not according to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which had a hand in the development of that tradition. I'll trust its judgment over the NCAA's. <<

See the Canard of the NCAA Knows Best for a response.

I trust the judgment of innumerable tribes, organizations, and individuals over that of the NCAA or the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Related links
Why FSU's Seminoles aren't okay
Team names and mascots
The harm of Native stereotyping:  facts and evidence


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