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Illinois Trustee Hostile Towards New NCAA Policy

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Aug 17, 2005 5:19PM

2005_08_sports_illini_logo.gifLast week, the NCAA instituted a new policy that would ban schools using "hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery" during NCAA Championships and would prevent offending schools from hosting postseason events. While broad in policy, the NCAA has squarely aimed these new rules at the 18 schools with Native American nicknames -- including the University of Illinois Fighting Illini.

Many have been outspoken in their opposition to the NCAA's decision, including Florida governor Jeb Bush. Florida State's Seminoles nickname is among the 18 flagged by the NCAA.

The chairman of the University of Illinois Board of Trustees also blasted the NCAA.

Characterization of the words Illini and Fighting Illini and the mascot Chief Illiniwek as "hostile" and "abusive" to Native Americans injected "incendiary rhetoric" and has created an impediment to a solution.

His comments were in part a response to NCAA President Myles Brand's op-ed in the USA Today last week supporting the measure.

Chicagoist has to side against the NCAA Executive Committee on this decision. The policy as enacted is both too broad and too narrow. It creates a one-size-fits-all solution, while at the same time ignored non-Native American monikers. And while saying that they are not forcing schools to change their nicknames, they in effect are by banning their use in tournament play. The Illini are expected to have different uniforms just for the NCAA Tournament? And how will they be referred to by announcers, etc.?

2005_08_sports_irish_logo.gifYet while the policy bans "hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery" the NCAA seems to have overlooked countless nicknames that weren't Native American inspired. Does nobody find Fighting Irish hostile or abusive? Or are all Irish really beligerant, drunk leprechauns? How about the Spartans? The Trojans? The Vikings? The Crusaders? The Fighting Scots? The Quakers? Is nobody at all offended by any of these deptictions? It seems that it's only fair to go after all ethnic nicknames rather than single out just one sub-category. There seems to be some selective political correctness within the NCAA.

There also needs to be a differentiation between those nicknames that are reverential vs. those that are derogatory. It's one thing to bar a nickname like "Crazy Injuns" but a name that honors a local tribe should be looked upon differently. There has been a good deal of debate, even before this latest issue, regarding Illinois' Chief Illiniwek. Some say that his depiction shows honor to the Illini Indians while others see it as perpetuating racist stereotypes. Chicagoist sees both views on this issue. But if the school tries to be respectful and the tribe does not feel distrespected, then the names and mascots should be allowed to remain.

We imagine this is an issue that won't soon go away. While the FSU Seminoles are safe for a bowl game because the rule doesn't go into effect until February 2006, look for it to come storming back before March Madness. And then there are all the animal nicknames to be dealt with, too. PETA's already going after the Univeristy of South Carolina's Gamecocks.