Two Cents: Indians and Braves Not Allowed in NCAA Tourney (8/10/05)

(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)

In today’s political climate the term “politically correct” has become somewhat of an oxymoron. With an administration that pushes agendas ostracizing citizens who don’t share the GOP’s proclivity for like-minded religion and sexuality, pretty soon there will be bland, inoffensive terms that encapsulate all walks of life with trendy catchphrases.

In the last couple of weeks there have been two examples that political correctness has morphed into a cultural brain washing and an excuse to be thin skinned.

I’m sure most have you heard the exciting news that the “War on Terror” has now become the “The Struggle Against Extremism”. I guess the words “war” and “terror” are words that frighten and worry the American people, while “Extreme” is a popular buzzword for the all-important 15-30 age demographic.

The other example came from another governing body that is blissfully unaware of what their constituents need and want from them.

The NCAA passed a rule that goes into effect February 1 which bans nicknames and mascots that are “hostile or abusive” to Native Americans from postseason tournaments.

They didn’t have enough juice to tell the offending universities to drop the nicknames altogether, so they used the only leverage they had, which is (money) the NCAA basketball tournament. Any schools invited to the big dance with nicknames deemed offensive by Miles Brand and the (white) boys, will have to change any uniforms and team clothing that contain the slogans in question.

And apparently, they didn’t have enough clout to enforce the rule in football, instead leaving it up the Bowl Championship Series bean counters. The same group of Poindexters who I thought couldn’t sneeze without asking the NCAA’s permission.

There were at least 18 NCAA schools that are to be affected by this decision, and many other lower division institutions. One of the main universities in question is the Florida State Seminoles.

Just last year the Seminole tribe in Florida said it was all right for FSU to use their name. That should be enough shouldn’t it? I mean who else other than the Seminole people in Florida would have the authority to say it’s ok?

There are exceptions. The NCAA said it’s ok for North Carolina-Pembroke (who?) to keep the nickname Braves because they have a student body that is 20-percent Native American. Aren’t the Native Americans that go to Pembroke offended? I thought Brave was a racist term.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do feel that there are some objectionable mascots and nicknames. The (Washington) Redskins, (Carthage College) Redmen and (Southeastern Oklahoma State) Savages are extremely offensive, and Indians pushes the bounds of good taste.

But most nicknames glorify the indomitable spirit of the Native Americans. A large portion of these schools use names like Illini, Chippewas, Utes, Seminoles, Sioux, and Choctaw because they populate lands that these proud tribes once owned.

In a very skewed sense, the use of these nicknames could be looked at as a type of celebration of that region’s history and people. It is in some cases keeping their unbreakable spirits alive and well, and perhaps serving as a sobering reminder that we were the cause of their demise.

The National Coalition on Racism in Sports should direct their efforts to issues more worthy of their valuable attention.

Like getting Jim Thorpe’s Olympic gold medals restored to their late owner or finding out why there are a disproportionate number of minority owners and coaches in the NFL.

And it goes without saying that the NCAA’s efforts could be better utilized in other areas. Such as fixing the BCS, improving the graduation rate and figuring out a way (stipends) to keep student-athletes in school so they can get a degree.

The most politically correct thing the United States can do for Native Americans is giving them the reparations they deserve and were promised so many years ago. But that will never happen.

After all, there’s nothing correct in this administration’s – or the NCAA’s – politics.



Categories: Basketball, sports

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