Team mascots should be fun for everyone

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Florida State Seminoles plan to challenge the National Collegiate Athletic Association's decision to bar "hostile or abusive" nicknames or mascots on team uniforms or other clothing in any NCAA tournament after Feb. 1.

While the NCAA's executive committee decided that the organization does not have the authority to bar Indian mascots from individual schools, a NCAA committee chairman said it is trying to send a message.

"What we are trying to say is that we find these mascots to be unacceptable for NCAA championship competition," said Walter Harrison, who is also the University of Hartford's president.

And, there are other big names involved besides Florida State, such as the Illinois' Illini.

Few things engender such emotion as sports and football in particular -- witness talk of turning Weiland Field into a college parking lot, for example.

And, any move to end a tradition involving such as mascot would be sure to generate Open Forum letters and calls to radio talk shows. Mascots are inexorably linked to "glory days" memories of fathers and sons, parents and children of athletic persuasion.

Many of us remember the day when blacks didn't appear on television, in other than a servile role, or when Native Americans or -- fill in the blank with a racial group of choice -- were always portrayed in a stereotypical way in the entertainment media.

None of us would wish to return to those times. But let's not invest more into a mascot than it deserves. Despite the pressures of NCAA Division I competition and professional athletics, sports, especially at the local, basic level, are supposed to be, first of all, fun. Beyond that, a team mascot should be even more of a light-hearted symbol.

Yes, it runs against our grain out here on the Golden Plains to be dictated political correctness. But we've been known to take the leadership when it comes to recognizing the important contributions of indigenous peoples. After all, an 87-mile stretch of Nebraska 25 from Sutherland to the Kansas line recently took on the name "Great Plains Indian Highway."

And, it runs near a monument to the tragic Sioux-Pawnee massacre near Trenton, certainly nothing to be made light of. It's time. Let's take a new look at team mascots with an eye toward making them fun for everyone.

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