The NCAA Political Correctness Witch Hunt
By: Mark Hyman
Now in its seventh year, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s battle with the University of North Dakota may be reaching a final conclusion. In 2005, the NCAA announced a complete ban on hosting post-season competition by 18 colleges that were using Native American mascots, logos, or nicknames. The ban was to become effective in February 2006 (TAS, November 23, 2009).
The college sports governing body backed off its strident demand regarding some schools after learning that Native American groups endorsed use of their tribal names by their adoptive schools. TheNCAA relented and gave the go-ahead for Florida State University, the University of Utah, and Central Michigan University to continue using Seminole, Ute, and Chippewa, respectively, without the risk of facing the post-season ban.
However, the NCAA continued its feigned moral outrage at the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname. The association was unmoved by the fact that the nearby Spirit Lake Sioux tribe and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe bestowed the Fighting Sioux nickname on the university in perpetuity during a pipe ceremony held on the UND campus in 1969 and tribal members actively campaigned for the school to continue to use the nickname.
There is seemingly no rhyme or reason to how the NCAA compiled its lists of Native American mascots, logos, or nicknames that the organization found acceptable and those that were deemed offensive. Consider, for example, Bradley University and the University of North Carolina-Pembroke. Both schools use the nickname “Braves” yet Bradley landed on the NCAA banned list and UNC-Pembroke got a free pass.
The most recent development in the NCAA-North Dakota battle was a federal lawsuit filed by Spirit Lake Sioux and Standing Rock Sioux tribal members. The plaintiffs requested a reversal of the NCAA ban and monetary damages. In May, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson dismissed the suit, ruling the tribes had no standing in the matter.
This political correctness wackiness is not restricted only to the NCAA and colleges. The Oregon state Board of Education recentlyruled that all public schools would have to cease using Native American imagery and nicknames.
Earlier this year, the students’ choice of mascot for the Corner Canyon High School was axed by the local school board. Located in suburban Salt Lake City, Corner Canyon is a new school set to open in the fall 2012. Students slated to enroll in the school overwhelmingly voted for “Cougars.” However, the board felt the name would be offensive to older women (Cougar is a slang term for older women who are attracted to younger men) and instead gave the school the nickname “Chargers.”
Opponents of Native American imagery claim its use is racist and offensive. Eager to prove this point, minority students at the University of Northern Colorado in 2002 adopted the nickname “Fightin’ Whities” for an intramural team that was complete with a logo depicting a Ward Cleaver-like character. The students were confident Caucasians would be in uproar over the offensive moniker. In fact, their effort had the opposite effect. The logo and nickname were wildly popular with whites and a nationwide demand to purchase the t-shirts emblazoned with both led to robust sales and profits of more than $100,000. A thriving businesscontinues 10 years later.
Perhaps the most obvious example of how absurd this witch hunt has become is illustrated by the NCAA’s position that the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” is offensive while the University of Notre Dame nickname “Fighting Irish” is not.
Illustrating the college sports governing body’s hypocrisy in this matter are the scores of schools among the NCAA’s more than 1,200 members that have mascots, logos, and nicknames that identify with race, ethnicity, or culture that the NCAA has deemed acceptable. These nicknames include: Aggies, Aztec, Braves, Cavaliers, Colonials, Cornhuskers, Cowboys, Crusaders, Diplomats, Dons, Dutch, Dutchmen, Flying Dutchmen, Engineers, Fightin’ Engineers, Fighting Irish, 49ers, Friars, Gaels, Gauchos, Generals, Highlanders, Indians, Jaspers, Knights, Leathernecks, Lumberjacks, Miners, Missionaries, Monks, Muleriders, Norse, Ole Miss Rebels, Oilers, Orediggers, Paladins, Pilgrims, Pioneers, Poets, Quakers, Ragin’ Cajuns, Railsplitters, Rebels, Redmen, Rivermen, Saints, Savages, Saxons, Scots, Fighting Scots, Sooners, Spartans, Texans, Tribe, Trojans, Vikings, Warriors and Yeomen.
UPDATE (6/13/12): CNS News reports that North Dakota voters on Tuesday approved scrapping the University of Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname.
Mark Hyman hosts "Behind the Headlines," a commentary program for Sinclair Broadcast Group.