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Point/counterpoint


Photo
Alan Eder
columnist
By Alan Eder and Michael Huston
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
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Mascots are symbols of oppression

Finally, someone got the call right.

In August, an NCAA Executive Committee policy banned the use of "mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin" from postseason play.

This policy was passed for good reasons - the messages that these icons send betray the heritage of American Indians.

No better example comes to the mind than Chief Illiniwek, the mascot for the University of Illinois. Originally developed by an eagle scout, the Chief emerges during halftime regaled in headdress and rawhide and proceeds to "fancy dance" (an obnoxious dance trivializing American Indian tradition).

Supporters of the Chief argue that the mascot and the dance are rooted in the school's history, but they miss the point. Illiniwek is a part of the school's tradition but unfortunately not the actual history of the tribe.

What Illiniwek gives us is a bastardized version of American Indian culture. The Chief's creators wrote an interesting story for their school, but in so doing also inadvertently rewrote the character of the actual Illini tribe.

American Indians rightly perceive the Chief's "fancy dance" as a demeaning interpretation of their own customs and tradition.

Turning to professional sports, proponents of the status quo maintain that team names and mascots are not offensive. They claim that most team names and symbols are used in a respectful, if not appreciative way. But while the Houston Texans are met with pride, the Atlanta Braves are met with enmity (remember the "tomahawk chop," anyone?).

Team names that target ethnic groups are blatantly prejudiced. What's the difference between the Washington Redskins and the Detroit Dagos? Or the Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Polacks? Clearly, the latter examples are racist as well, and would never be approved.

The images that sports teams use betray identity more than a Clinton Portis news conference. They are racist because they reduce American Indians to feathers and beads. Sorry to disappoint, but these people are more than just savages, headdresses and "fancy dances."

While mascots are meant to be a symbol of pride, they have become a mark of trivialization for American Indians.

Everyone agrees that the word "nigger" is repugnant. That is precisely the same case here. Racism, if mild, is still racism and should be expunged. The NCAA policy is a fair call.


Alan Eder is a senior majoring in political science and Spanish. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



Photo
Michael Huston
columnist

Mascots are symbols of honor

The decision by the NCAA to ban the use of 18 "offensive" mascots from postseason play is as outrageous as it is silly. The action, which reflects a lack of both research and critical thinking, is nothing more than a weak attempt by the NCAA to appeal to a frightening, far-left ideology of universal political correctness.

The fact that the NCAA saw fit to address this issue at all is indicative of the fact that each day in American society we find new and more creative ways to be offended by each other.

Had the NCAA stopped to think for a moment before charging full on under a banner of enlightened moral superiority, it would have quickly discovered that many of the "offensive" tribal names used as mascots are actually symbols of great pride for their respective American Indian groups.

Consider the cases of the University of Utah Utes and the Florida State University Seminoles. These American Indian groups, whose pride the NCAA apparently sought to protect, are both on record stating that their tribes enjoy a long and proud tradition of partnership with their respective universities and would like for the universities' athletic teams to continue to bear the tribal names.

Upon appeal to a higher NCAA committee, the organization has corrected its own conspicuous lack of understanding by removing both of these schools from the "banned" list. This must be the reason that the appeals committee was too busy to hear either of Jawann McClellan's academic appeals.

It is absurd to suggest that American Indian mascots are degrading portrayals of a dignified people because all mascots are symbols of pride for those who celebrate them.

The University of Illinois' Chief Illiniwek is certainly not meant to represent American Indians as savages, nor does he exist to suggest that all American Indians are warring people.

Instead, the NCAA and the public should appreciate the mascot for what it is. It is a symbol of a historical people who are idealized because they possessed the admirable traits of dignity, courage and strength; traits that students, alumni and fans hope bespeak their athletic teams and their proud university tradition.

American sports fans should call a foul on the NCAA on this one, and maybe next time they will look beyond the basic American Civil Liberties Union rhetoric before crusading for a more politically correct world.


Michael Huston is a political science sophomore who hopes the Washington Redskins never change their team name. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.



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