The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

15 August 2005

Spearheading the resistance

Not long ago I wrote about Florida State University's response to the NCAA's current obsession with "offensive" team names and mascots.

Charles E. Kupchella, president of the University of North Dakota, has now weighed in with an open letter to the NCAA:

Is it the use of Indian names, images, and/or mascots to which you are opposed? If it is all of the above, which logos, images, and mascots do you indict by your announcement? Is it only certain ones? [A] very respected Indian artist designed and created a logo for the University. The logo is not unlike those found on United States coins and North Dakota highway patrol cars and highway signs. So we can't imagine that the use of this image is "abusive" or "hostile" in any sense of these words.

Is it the use of the names of tribes that you find hostile and abusive? Not long ago I took a trip to make a proposal to establish an epidemiological program to support American Indian health throughout the Upper Great Plains. On this trip I left a state called North Dakota. (Dakota is one of the names the indigenous people of this region actually call themselves.) I flew over South Dakota, crossing the Sioux River several times, and finally landed in Sioux City, Iowa, just south of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The airplane in which I traveled that day was called a Cheyenne.

I think you should find my confusion here understandable, since obviously if we were to call our teams "The Dakotans," we would actually be in more direct violation of what apparently you are trying to establish as a rule, even though this is the name of our state. This situation, of course, is not unlike that faced by our sister institution in Illinois.

And there's one other issue, by the way:

Is it only about applying names to sports teams? If so, would this be extended to the use of the names of all people, or is it just American Indians? Why would you exempt the "Fighting Irish" from your consideration, for example? Or "Vikings," which are really fighting Scandinavians, or "Warriors," which I suppose could be described as fighting anybodies? Wouldn't it be "discrimination on account of race" to have a policy that applies to Indians but not to Scandinavians or the Irish, or anybody else for that matter? This seems especially profound in light of a letter to me from [NCAA] President [Myles] Brand (8/9/05) in which he, in very broad-brush fashion and inconsistent with the NCAA's recent much narrower pronouncement, said, "we believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at our events."

(Emphasis in Dr Kupchella's original.)

I went to a high school where the teams were known as the Battling Bishops. Somehow I don't think anyone came away with the notion that Catholic clergy were unusually belligerent. Then again, as a high school, we obviously weren't members of the NCAA.

Posted at 6:12 AM to Dyssynergy , Wastes of Oxygen


My collegiate degrees are from schools whose mascots are a stinging social insect (the "Hornets") and the polar bear (the "Nanooks").

Anyone who has been swarmed by hornets or any of their cousins should perhaps be especially leery of offending them.

As for polar bears, well, they kill Eskimos (a profoundly politically incorrect action) and baby seals (even more so), and get away with it!

Posted by: McGehee at 1:06 PM on 16 August 2005