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Education
NCAA won't allow Indian mascots at playoff games


The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced its new mascot policy on Friday, limiting the use of imagery deemed "hostile and abusive" to Native Americans.

Starting February 1, 2006, 18 schools with Indian-themed mascots, nicknames or symbols will not be allowed to use or display their images in post-season NCAA tournaments. The institutions won't be allowed to host such events in the future either. Previously scheduled playoffs at these schools will occcur as planned, but the schools "must take reasonable steps to cover up" the references to Indians, the NCAA said.

The policy, approved by the NCAA Executive Committee on Thursday, doesn't bar member schools from using Indian imagery to promote their athletic programs. "But as a national association, we believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at the championship events that we control," said Walter Harrison, the chair of the committee and president at the University of Hartford.

The changes come in response to decades of complaints by Indian activists and tribal organizations. As far back as the 1950s and 1960s, leaders in Indian Country objected to the use of names like the "Redskins" and the "Braves," saying they promoted stereotypes and discrimination.

Hundreds of secondary and post-secondary schools have dropped their Indian mascots as a result. But a number of high-profile holdouts, such as the University of North Dakota's "Fighting Sioux" and the University of Illinois' "Chief Illiniwek," remain on playing fields across the nation.

Those schools will now be under pressure to change their mascots, National Congress of American Indians President Tex Hall said. "This is a big step in the right direction," he said on Friday. "We hope that in the future the uses of Indian mascots are discontinued in all sports arenas," he added.

Not everyone in Indian Country agreed with the changes, however. Joseph Sowmick, a spokesperson for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, said the decision "is not acceptable" and was made without tribal consultation. The tribe backs the "Chippewas" of Central Michigan University.

"The rich relationship that the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe has with CMU cannot be determined by an outside entity without contacting the institution and the government involved," he said.

Leaders of the Seminole Tribe of Florida also criticized the move. In June, the tribal council passed a resolution in support of the "Seminoles" mascot of Florida State University, citing the long relationship between the two. The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma opposes the image, though.

Responses from the institutions themselves were largely negative. "I intend to pursue all legal avenues to ensure that this unacceptable decision is overturned, and that this university will forever be associated with the 'unconquered' spirit of the Seminole Tribe of Florida," said FSU President T.K. Wetherell.

The process began in November 2004, when the NCAA asked 33 schools to justify their use of Indian images. Some cited tribal support for the mascots while others simply argued that the symbols are not offensive to Native Americans.

David Gipp, the president of the United Tribes Technical College, wrote to the NCAA Subcommittee on Gender and Diversity last month to call for the removal of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo at UND. All the Sioux tribes in the Plains have passed resolutions against the name.

"I believe there should be some consequences for essentially promoting a racially biased point of view by use of a derogatory stereotypical name for sports teams, and I also believe that the NCAA is in a position to do something about it," wrote Gipp, an alumnus of UND.

The NCAA backed that stance in its policy, which applies to 18 colleges and universities. With the exception of five schools, every school is located in the Eastern or Midwestern part of the country.

Another 14 schools had removed all Indian imagery or were deemed not to reference Indian culture, the NCAA said. One school, the College of William and Mary, was given an extension to review its "Tribe" mascot.

One school, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, was excluded from the policy altogether. The NCAA determined that the "Braves" mascot was acceptable because the school was founded to serve members of the Lumbee Tribe. Native Americans make up 20 percent of the student body.

The following 18 schools are affected:
  • Alcorn State University (Braves)
  • Central Michigan University (Chippewas)
  • Catawba College (Indians)
  • Florida State University (Seminoles)
  • Midwestern State University (Indians)
  • University of Utah (Utes)
  • Indiana University-Pennsylvania (Indians)
  • Carthage College (Redmen)
  • Bradley University (Braves)
  • Arkansas State University (Indians)
  • Chowan College (Braves)
  • University of Illinois-Champaign (Illini)
  • University of Louisiana-Monroe (Indians)
  • McMurry University (Indians)
  • Mississippi College (Choctaws)
  • Newberry College (Indians)
  • University of North Dakota (Fighting Sioux)
  • Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Savages)

NCAA Announcement:
NCAA Executive Committee Issues Guidelines for Use of Native American Mascots at Championship Events (August 5, 2005)

Relevant Links:
NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee - http://www1.ncaa.org/eprise/main/
membership/governance/assoc-wide/moic/index.html

National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media - http://www.aimovement.org/ncrsm