- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

Allow me to come out of the closet. Full disclosure. First, I’m a Sunday Woman; preferring pro football over college football. Second, while I fully understand why some people find ethnic names and mascots offensive, I am as proud to have been an Anacostia High School Indian as I am of my Seminole heritage. Third, I have some choice words for the NCAA, but I dare not use them in this family newspaper. (Think of the old sitcom “Alice,” whose colorful characterFlo gave America a new appreciation for that Southern delicacy called grits.)

For parents and alumniwho haven’t been paying attention, I’m among that other Southern delicacy — the grits, that’s girls raised in the south — who oppose a particular position taken by the patronizing college sports policy-makers known to one and all as the NCAA. The Saturday Men have decided to prohibit NCAA “franchises” with American Indian nicknames and mascots from postseason tournament play. Their sanctimonious decree is as racially discriminatory as any Jim Crow writ ever was.

The upshot of the new policy means the Braves at Alcorn State and the Choctaws at Mississippi College are outcasts. (Are you paying attention, Sen. Trent Lott and Rep. Bennie Thompson?) The Chippewas at Central Michigan are banned. The same goes for the Indians at Arkansas State and Savages at Southeastern Oklahoma. So many others, so little space.

Has the NCAA given serious thought to the possibility that their PC madness might be raising eyebrows among some schools’ generous benefactors?

What are targeted schools to do? Raise tuition and fees to cover the costs of renaming their lucrative “franchises?” Beg taxpayers for more money? Offer fewer scholarships and other financial aid to Indians? Order mascots off the bus? Stop selling bumper stickers, tees, sweats, jerseys and other school paraphernalia emblazoned with mascots? Ban fans and students who wear Indian headresses to a game.

What’s next? Tell Duke its Blue Devils are politically incorrect and should be red? No. Order Duke to get rid of the ACC icon because it might offend the pope, Wiccans or Lucifer? (The origin of the Duke mascot rests in les Diables Bleus, the nickname of a troop of World War I French soldiers.) Will the foolishness lead to the renaming of states, cities and streets across America? Or will the NCAA’s antics mean only changing the names of rivers and other bodies of water? Capital River instead of Potomac River? Will major league teams follow? History itself?

Somebody somewhere is upset over some name or word all the time. The busybodies with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals want the NCAA to keep the University of South Carolina and Alabama’s Jacksonville State from calling their teams the Gamecocks, complaining the name promotes cruelty to the animals. (You don’t have to be a country girl to know that cocks don’t need human instigation to brawl, regardless of proximity to the henhouse.)

The NCAA’s 100-year-old roots are auspiciously humane, stemming from the early days of college football and the so-called flying wedge play. In 1905, the offensive play caused 18 deaths and 149 serious injuries. The dangerous play led for calls to disband collegiate play altogether, but intervention in 1905 by the rough-riding Teddy Roosevelt, himself a student-athlete alumnus of Harvard, who threatened his own presidential decree if school officials didn’t make the game safer. Like my Seminole ancestors who served as warrior-scouts for the U.S. Army, the Ivy Leaguers and other East Coast elitists were the vanguard of the reform-football movement, forming the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States in 1906, and changing the named to the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1910.

For the NCAA centennial in 2006, lots of celebrating is planned, including great expectations that President Bush, a Yalie, will give the keynote during the NCAA Convention at its Indianapolis headquarters in the “land of Indians.” The plans also call for special ESPN broadcasts of the NCAA’s past, present and future. (There are no signs in the crystal ball that show the NCAA moving to less “hostile” territory, however.)

Professional sports is a huge money-maker. College sports isn’t supposed to be. The NCAA needs to focus more on the student in student-athlete.

My time in Tallahassee would have been extremely boring had it not been for FAMU’s Rattlers and the Seminoles of Florida State. It will be interesting to hear what (if anything) the powers that be — members of Congress, alumni and other boosters, governors and mayors — have to say about the NCAA’s attempts to erase America’s cultural history and their own academic heritage.

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