- The Washington Times - Friday, August 19, 2005

The Politically Correct (P.C.) police are at it again. Fed up with what it considers “hostile” and “abusive” American Indian nicknames, the NCAA announced it would ban those words and images from post-season tournaments.

Starting in 2006 any school with a nickname or logo considered racially or ethnically “hostile” by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) would be banned from using them in postseason events. Mascots will not be allowed to perform at tournament games and cheerleaders will be barred from using American Indian images on their uniforms. Major college football teams are not subject to the ban since there is no official NCAA tournament associated with college football.

Of course, not everyone greeted this decision favorably. Some schools affected quickly complained. Florida State University, home of the Seminoles, threatened legal action. “That the NCAA would now label our close bond with the Seminole people as culturally ‘hostile and abusive’ is both outrageous and insulting,” Florida State President T.K. Wetherall said.

The NCAA committee also recommended that colleges follow the example of Wisconsin and Iowa by refusing to schedule contests against schools using American Indian nicknames.

While NCAA officials cannot force colleges to change their nicknames or logos, they hope the decision will chasten intended targets — 18 mascots, including Florida States’ Seminole and Illinois’ Fighting Illini, were on the list of offenders.

These colleges won’t be allowed to host future NCAA tournament games. At any already scheduled events, the colleges must cover any logos or nicknames that appear.

Left unsaid, of course, is what constitutes “hostile and abusive”? NCAA President Myles Brand noted that some institutions using the “Warrior” nickname will not face sanctions because it is not specifically an Indian symbol. One college, North Carolina-Pembroke — which uses the nickname Braves — will also be exempt from censure because of a historically high percentage of American Indian students.

For NCAA Politically Correct enforcers, the issue is cut-and-dried. “We believe hostile or abusive nicknames are troubling to us and it can’t continue,” said panel chairman Walter Harrison.

However, the examples used for censure suggest “hostile and abusive” may be in the eye of the NCAA beholder. What precisely is hostile about Seminole and Illini? One might claim these names have something to do with the unquenchable spirit of these tribes.

Though taste may be an issue, so too is free speech. Is the lesson conveyed that only certain names can be employed? Is the NCAA arrogating to itself the role of censor?

I cannot conceive of a college with an Indian nickname that has hostile intent. Most colleges using these nicknames and logos do so in admiration of the indigenes’ spirit.

What seems at play is the left-wing campus orthodoxy searching for some offense against a designated victim group or subculture. Mr. Brand and his P.C. acolytes have found the holy grail with this campaign against Indian symbols.

One might think with all the abuses in college football and basketball, these P.C. avatars might consider ways to control corruption, degradation of academic standards and steroid use. Instead they found an issue that satisfies campus orthodoxy.

Several years ago, the St. Johns’ basketball team changed its nickname from the Redmen to the Red Storm. Though it is difficult to make a connection, the fortunes of St. Johns’ basketball program went into decline after that change.

As I see it, the gods are watching. Those colleges engaged in the silly enterprise of changing their nicknames to appease the P.C. police will pay a price in diminished performance. The ban simply makes some feel superior, while reducing the freedom that makes Americans unique.

Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute. He also is professor emeritus at New York University and author of the book “Decade of Denial” (Lexington Books).

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