INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA banned the use of American Indian mascots by sports teams during its postseason tournaments, but will not prohibit them otherwise.
The NCAA executive committee decided this week the organization did not have the authority to bar Indian mascots by individual schools, committee Chairman Walter Harrison said yesterday.
Nicknames or mascots deemed “hostile or abusive” would not be allowed on team uniforms or other clothing beginning with any NCAA tournament after Feb. 1, said Mr. Harrison, president of the University of Hartford.
“What each institution decides to do is really its own business” outside NCAA championship events, he said. “What we are trying to say is that we find these mascots to be unacceptable for NCAA championship competition.”
At least 18 schools have mascots the NCAA deems “hostile or abusive,” including Florida State’s Seminole and Illinois’ Fighting Illini. In fact, the state of Illinois is named for the same tribe, and the names of a majority of the 50 states are of Indian origin. Others banned are the Utes of Utah, the Chippewas of Eastern Michigan and the Indians of Arkansas State and the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
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,” Mr. Wetherell said.
“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.”
Not all schools with Indian-related nicknames are on the list. NCAA officials said some schools using the Warrior nickname do not use Indian symbols and would not be affected.
North Carolina-Pembroke, which uses the nickname Braves, will not face sanctions. NCAA President Myles Brand said the school’s student body has historically admitted a high percentage of American Indians and more than 20 percent of the students are American Indians.
Schools on the list could still appeal.
“I suspect that some of those would like to having a ruling on that,” Mr. Brand said. “But unless there is a change before Feb. 1, they will have to abide by it.”
Major college football teams also would not be subjected to the new rules because there is no NCAA Division I-A tournament or playoff.
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 they’ve chosen to only go halfway,” said Mr. Bellecourt, who identifies himself as 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.
Florida State obtained the blessings of the Seminole tribe in Florida to use the nickname. The NCAA says it 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. She did not identify them.
Among the schools to change nicknames in recent years over such concerns were St. John’s (from Redmen to Red Storm) and Marquette (from Warriors to Golden Eagles).
The NCAA will bar schools using Indian nicknames from playing host to postseason events. Mr. Harrison said schools with such mascots that have already been selected as tournament sites would be asked to cover up “offensive” logos. Such logos also would be prohibited at postseason games on cheerleader and band uniforms starting in 2008.