Skip to comments.NCAA nixes nicknames (Central Michigan and Saginaw Chippewas balk)
Posted on 08/05/2005 10:34:48 PM PDT by Dan from Michigan
NCAA nixes nicknames
Use of Native American mascots, logos banned in postseason play
By MATTHEW B. MOWERY
Sun Sports Writer
In response to yet another outside body trying to influence whether or not Central Michigan University and other schools should employ Native American nicknames, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe issued a sharply-worded rebuke: Stay out of our business. Advertisement
After the NCAA announced Friday afternoon that it would prohibit its member institutions from displaying mascots, nicknames or imagery during any of its 88 postseason championship tournaments, the Tribe issued a joint press release with CMU.
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, said Tribal spokesman Joseph Sowmick in the release. Any arbitrary decision made from an outside source regarding the university-Tribal relations is not acceptable, and certainly the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe would welcome a dialogue to discuss this further.
Since the school adopted the Chippewa nickname in 1942, there have been several attempts to force it to be changed, but always from outside sources, never from the two primary parties in what has been a long-standing, mutual agreement.
The university has revisited the issue several times, always keeping the nickname in place, pending the continued approval of the Tribe. This time is no different, with the school reserving the Board of Trustees right to make that decision again, as it did last back in 1992.
"CMU's continued use of the name is dependent on whether the Chippewa people in our region continue to feel that CMU's use of the name is in fact a proud reflection and is used with dignity and respect," the university said in the joint statement.
Other than the nickname, the school eliminated the majority of the other potentially-derogatory references to Native Americans in 1989 or earlier, changing the logo, eliminating all mascots as well as depictions of spears from the football teamms helmets, the football field, and the basketball floor.
Every CMU athletic media guide has a carefully-written note about the nickname, urging the mediams help in maintaining the delicate agreement with the Tribe by eliminating linappropriate and inaccurate images of Native Americans.
Only four teams last year even had the Chippewa name on them - football's home and away jerseys, and alternate jerseys for softball, baseball and women's track and field.
Other than to say, "We need more information from the NCAA before we respond further," CMU athletic director Herb Deromedi didn't comment further, given the timing and rapidity of the NCAA's announcement of its decision late Friday afternoon, and the lack of clarity about its exact effects.
The NCAA ruling only applies to postseason play, the portion of competition that the governing body has closest control over, and only after Feb. 1. Major college football is not impacted, as there is no NCAA Division I-A tournament or playoff.
"What each institution decides to do is really its own business. What we are trying to say is that we find these mascots to be unacceptable for NCAA championship events," said Walter Harrison, the chairman of the NCAA executive committee.
The NCAA plans to ban schools using Indian nicknames from hosting postseason events, and will prohibit them from displaying names or logos at postseason games on cheerleader and band uniforms starting in 2008.
Along with CMU, at least 17 other schools have mascots were on the released list that the NCAA deem "hostile or abusive," including Florida State's use of the Seminole name, and the use of Illini by Illinois.
Not all schools with Indian-related nicknames are on the list.
The NCAA stated that some schools that use Warriors as a nickname, but do not use Indian symbols, would not be affected. North Carolina-Pembroke, which uses the nickname Braves, was exempted, as well, because of the high percentage of American Indians in its student population, according to NCAA president Myles Brand.
The NCAA left open the possibility to appeal, but some schools are taking it further.
Florida State President T.K. Wetherell threatened to take legal action after the ruling.
"That the NCAA would now label our close bond with the Seminole people as culturally "hostile and abusive" is both outrageous and insulting," Wetherell said in a written statement.
"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."
Much like CMU, Florida State has received permission from the Seminole tribe in Florida to use the nickname. The NCAA, however, made its decision based on a different standard.
"Other Seminole tribes are not supportive," said Charlotte Westerhaus, the NCAA vice president for diversity and inclusion.
Nor are all Native Americans.
Vernon Bellecourt, president of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, was pleased with the postseason ban but had hoped for even stronger action.
"We would have hoped the NCAA would have provided the moral leadership on this issue, but obviously theymve chosen to only go halfway," said Bellecourt, a member of the Anishinabe-Ojibwe Nation in Minnesota.
The NCAA two years ago recommended that schools determine for themselves whether the Indian depictions were offensive.
This reminds me of a story a while back about the University of North Dakota team, the Fighting Sioux...some activists have been demanding that the name be changed, but apparently the Sioux have no problem with the name. The activists are either from other tribes or non-Indians.
CMU last made the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 2003, and played Duke in the second round. This would be the last time that the nickname got play on national TV. Other squds (softball, gymnastics, wrestling, men's track and field) have been in the NCAA postseason since then. Football was last in the playoffs in 1974, when CMU won the Division II national title. The thing to remember is that only four teams at CMU even had the 'Chippewa' name on their uniforms.
The NCAA can't really aim that hard at FSU, either, because any bowl game that the Seminoles would play in for football, are NOT affiliated with the NCAA. (there is no official NCAA postseason tournament in Division I-A football). This is just heavy-handed politics by the NCAA, trying to back-door a solution that they WANT but don't really have the power to make happen.