Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Knock Me Over with a Feather: The Politics of Indian Team Names

The first phase of the Language Police assault on Indian names was the easy part. A relative handful of activists pressured schools and colleges to scrap sports team names that seemed offensive on their face: Savages, for example. But neither the activists nor their ally in this cleansing campaign, the NCAA, had any intention of stopping there.

No, the NCAA won't be finished until every reference to American Indians is swept off college campuses. The latest move: This week, the collegiate athletic organization has ruled on the College of William and Mary's request that it be allowed to keep the name "Tribe" for its teams: Request denied. "Tribe," like "Indians" before it, must go. I kid you not.

Here's the NCAA's ruling, and here's the most astonishing piece of it:

The NCAA admits that William and Mary already abandoned the name Indians as well as its Indian mascot. The NCAA concedes that "the term 'Tribe' does not invoke Native American meanings." But because William and Mary sometimes accompanies the word "Tribe" with eagle feathers, it becomes "a stereotypical reference to Native Americans." Despite the fact that Virginia tribal leaders told the NCAA that they support the "Tribe" name for William and Mary teams, and despite the NCAA's own conclusion that "the college's rationale for the use of the nickname and imagery is not inherently hostile or abusive," the organization has decided to ban the name anyway.


"The continued use of such Native American references creates an environment over which an institution may not have full control. Fans, opponents and others can and will exhibit behaviors that indeed are hostile or abusive to Native Americans."

So, what they're saying is that the college's intent doesn't matter, the views of Indians themselves don't matter, and the actual meaning of words don't matter. The NCAA doesn't care that "Tribe" is a tribute to William and Mary's history as a school that set out starting in 1697 to educate American Indians from throughout the Southeast. The NCAA doesn't care that Chief William Miles of Virginia's Pamunkey Tribe says that "I speak for my tribe in saying that there is no perception whatsoever that William and Mary uses the term "Tribe" in a negative way. We're worried about poverty, homelessness, health care and the like for our people. Not the use of the name Tribe."

The only thing the NCAA cares about in these decisions is the possible behavior of the most boorish, drunken or idiotic fans who might ever attend an event. If this isn't Thought Control, please tell me what is.

Foiled to date in their effort to get the Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians and other professional sports teams to change their names, the radical fringe leading this witchhunt has focused on college and high school team names--with much greater success.

A few years ago, the Montgomery County school system forced Poolesville High School to drop the Indians name from its sports teams, even after the people of Poolesville voted on the question and decided by a 60 percent majority that the name is inoffensive and should stay. (Their teams are now the Falcons.)

Now, WIlliam and Mary faces an order to erase its team name and a piece of its history. There's one possible appeal, to the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, but there's really little hope. The college president has chosen to interpret the NCAA ruling narrowly, as a ban on the use of feathers as part of the school's sports logo, and is apparently hoping that the name "Tribe" will pass muster if the feathers go away. But the NCAA ruling seems intent on eradicating the word, not just the trappings that surround it.

We live in a nation in which intelligent people have somehow persuaded themselves that if you create verbal taboos, you will alter thoughts. All of history tells us that precisely the opposite is true, that forced language only drives outcast thoughts underground and solidifies their hold on people. But there it is and here we are.

Add this blog to my Technorati Favorites!

By Marc Fisher |  May 18, 2006; 7:38 AM ET
Previous: The Mayor and Mrs. Cropp | Next: I Did Bad, But How Bad? And Would You Do the Same?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

I finally find a subject upon which I agree with the NCAA. And, I'm a rabid sports fan.

Look, the reason the NCAA gave is perfectly valid. As someone whose college friends were tailgatin', body paintin', howling, rabid fans, I think the NCAA is right. I've never been to a William & Mary game, but Florida State fans do not hesitate to dress up like what they consider an indian to look like and do stupid indian parodies. They are offensive to me (particularly when drunk) and I'm not an indian. I can only imagine how much I'd want to slap somebody if I were an indian and had to listen to these jerks howl and whoop.

The NCAA is wrong on a million counts ('Amateur' status, not letting the kids get legit jobs, etc) but here I think they have made the responsible decision.

Posted by: NCAA is correct | May 18, 2006 9:36 AM

Hmm...Redskins isn't offensive? Well then I guess it's ok if I name my new NBA expansion team the "Blackies." And how about a college team named "The Crackers"? Just because it offends an ethnic group that's been marginilized with the excuse that at least we let them have casinos, doesn't make it right.

Posted by: jw | May 18, 2006 9:43 AM

I personally find the "Fighting Irish" nickname of Notre Dame offensive. The drunk, beligerent leprechaun is particularly demeaning to me. I feel so much better knowing that the NCAA will go after them soon.

Oh, and my cat puts it's ears back whenever Penn State is on the TV, so in my opinion, their mascot has to go.

And my dogs, well, they just seem that much more depressed when Georgia is on, especially if they're losing.

And frankly, hurricanes just aren't laughing matters. Can we simply pretend this doesn't have an effect on people? Imagine the hurt and pain caused whenever Miami is playing. Simply put, no woman named Katrina can walk Miami's campus without hanging her head in shame. It's subtle, but you can't deny the connection.

The NCAA needs to act now. School mascots need to be limited to colors (only appropriate ones) and plant names like Tulip Poplar or Petunia. And leave the fruits and vegetables out please -- please God don't piss off the vegetarians; you know how they can be.

Posted by: John Edwards | May 18, 2006 9:46 AM

Hey Mark - I just got a letter from W&M saying we were allowed to *keep* the name, but we had to change our logo.

From Gene Nichols at W&M, sent 5/17/06:
"We learned last evening that the NCAA staff review determined the use of the nickname "Tribe" by our athletic teams was neither "hostile nor abusive." The report did object, however, to the use of feathers as part of our sports logo. We will appeal the ruling as it applies to the logo.

The good news, of course, is the NCAA has agreed with our assessment of the term "Tribe." The nickname -- so close to the heart of this community -- will remain the College's moniker."

So who's right?

Posted by: W&M Alum | May 18, 2006 9:47 AM

The NCAA is just wrong on the W&M name. Do Indians somehow have a monopoly on the word "Tribe" or on the use of feathers? You'll find cultures everywhere that use feathers for ceremonial dress and the last I checked the dictionary, tribe means "a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations".

Posted by: CH | May 18, 2006 9:52 AM

I'm really surprised by Marc Fisher's comments here. This country would not stand for any other ethnicity being caricatured and grossly misrepresented the way that Indians are for the sake of sports. That being said, if local Indian tribes are fine with the way that they are being represented by these schools, then who am I to say differently? But don't give me "even after the people of Poolesville voted on the question and decided by a 60 percent majority that the name is inoffensive and should stay." How many of those people are Indians? Of course they're going to say it's not offensive, because if they admitted it was, they'd be admitting that they've been cheering for an offensive symbol. How can you defend letting a vote decide what is offensive? I'm sure there are towns all over the country where a majority vote would "decide" it's not offensive to beat up gay people, or to discriminate against Latinos or blacks or Asians or whoever. That doesn't make it so.

Posted by: Arlington | May 18, 2006 9:55 AM

Also consider the wimpness of Abe Pollin when he renamed the Bullets to Wizards just because he thought that somehow brought a negative stereotype about DC (not that a certain mayor didn't do enough damage).

Posted by: tallbear | May 18, 2006 9:59 AM

To W&M Alum:
The letter the college president has sent out appears to be an attempt to read the NCAA decision as narrowly as possible, picking up on the NCAA's condemnation of the eagle feathers that accompany the name "Tribe" in the school's sports logos. But if you read the whole NCAA report--there's a link to it in my original post above--it's clear that the NCAA is saying No to the name "Tribe" and is just using the feathers as the rationale for that decision. Seems to me what the president's letter does is to seek to lay the groundwork for W&M's appeal.

Posted by: Fisher | May 18, 2006 10:01 AM

Hey Tallbear,

"Pollin announced after last season that he was leaning toward changing the nickname because he believed bullets were associated with violence. He made the decision final last fall after his close friend, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated with a handgun."

Posted by: Rob | May 18, 2006 10:08 AM

Is there any concern about the "Fighting Irish" of Notre Dame?

I am an Irish American and I could not care a whit what some sports team names itself. But in this Politically Correct society in which we are all supposed to show our victimhood, I'd like to see the NCAA policy with regard to a team named for (supposedly) combative white people. Is the NCAA's policy restricted only to teams named for people of the darker races? Are teams name "the Clansmen" (Scottish) be allowed? How about the "Vikings" (Scandinavian)?, or "the Huns" (possibly German)?

Posted by: William McKeever | May 18, 2006 10:09 AM

To the first poster-

I went to William and Mary and have been to plenty of games. In four years I was there, and in the four years since, I have never seen anyone dressed up in costumes referencing Native Americans. We wear our colors, green and gold. The most offensive thing I have seen someone do at a game is bring along their class reading and a highlighter. (We are known as serious students, but that's a little much.)

Plus, why should the William & Mary community be judged based on what you have seen Florida State fans do? I don't think the logical connection is there.

Posted by: another W&M alum | May 18, 2006 10:12 AM

I have to agree with Mr. McKeever that we are getting WAAAAY too sensitive about all of this. What's next? The LA Lakers changing their name at the behest of environmentalists? The MN Twins changing their name to be fair to paternal and fraternal twins? The Baltimore Orioles changing their name to appease bird watchers? The Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox changing their name to appease legions of fans who prefer to eschew socks?

Aren't there more important issues that the NCAA specifically and society generally could be focusing on?

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 10:14 AM

These posts about the mayor and the team names are not getting the type of notice by the blogosphere as the postings about Patrick Henry College and the existence of aliens--how about you explore the link between the Birch Society, the Elders of Zion, Anne "Celestia" Heche from Procyon and the radical Right and their effect on the OBP of the Nationals.

Posted by: BuzzTracker | May 18, 2006 10:21 AM

Fifteen or twenty years ago, W&M quietly began transitioning from the "Indians" to the "Tribe." Notwithstanding, as the article mentioned, the local indians that were schooled on the grounds of the college in the beginning years. I even named my beach house "Tribe Pride." The term has multiple connotations, not the least of which was the reference to our five offspring that composed part of our "tribe," our "family," if you will.

Our finanically-strapped college has spent an inordinate amount of money to fight this battle because of the self-annointed few who continue to try to legislate their beliefs into society. There are just too many real, substantive issues to deal with in our society without having to create something out of nothing.

For those of us who love and respect W&M, our teams will always be our "Indians" and/or our "Tribe." My logo-encrusted green and gold outfits will outlive them all!

Posted by: W&M Alum (Mike) | May 18, 2006 10:22 AM

You say that "Now, WIlliam and Mary faces an order to erase its team name and a piece of its history." So it is defendable because it is tradition? Where does this piece of history and tradition come from? Slavery is also a "piece of [American] history" but you don't see any sports teams celebrating that history.

What I don't understand is, what is the driving need to name sports teams after ethnic groups or symbols of ethnic groups? Is it a requirement for fostering fan spirit? Would the fans lose enthusiasm for their team if the name was changed to an animal or other *non-human* name?

This brings me to John Edwards' post above, which I'm assuming is sarcastic. You go from "complaining" on the behalf of Irish to "complaining" on behalf of dogs, cats, plants... But that is precisely what's so offensive about ethnic sports team names! If all teams are equal, in their dignity, then having a team called "Indians" compete against a team named after dogs, is sort of saying that those two are on the same level...

One is human, the other is not.

Posted by: College Park | May 18, 2006 10:26 AM

So, College Park, I think yo've just managed to insurt dogs all over the country. What about the fine tradition set forward by seeing-eye dogs, or St. Bernards rescuing skiiers in the Alps? The dog is a noble animal!

The point here is anyone can find an issue with any mascot, any name, etc.

Isn't it time we, as a society, focused on important issues like who is going to win American Idol?!?!?!?!

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 10:31 AM

Maybe W&M alums do not dress up and do offensive stuff at games, but how would the NCAA justify condemning one set of indian mascots and not others? The justification is the same.

And to people making the ludicrous 'slippery slope' arguments, consider that this country was not established by going to war and slaying lots of "Vikings." There haven't been years of movies portraying "Twins" as mindless savages.

Why is it so hard to understand that for people who have been slapped in the face, seeing caricatures of their ancestors painted on helmets or watching drunk people drink heavily and dress like their ancestors can be offensive? Why is it unreasonable for an institution (NCAA) which at least pretends to be part of the noble, inclusive culture of higher education, strive to only support caricatures which are themselves inclusive.

"Redskins" is offensive, but I can see business reasons why Snyder would want to keep it. At the college level, indian mascots are not good for business for the NCAA as a whole (e.g., inclusive, or at least not EXclusive or offensive).

Posted by: NCAA is correct | May 18, 2006 10:35 AM

Another school in Montgomery County dropped the Indians name, albeit indirectly. Northwood High School's athletic teams were known as the Indians until the school, on University Boulevard in Silver Spring. was closed in the 1980s due to declining enrollment. When the school was reopened several years ago, the teams were now known as Gladiators.

As for William & Mary, the school has so much history that the name "Tribe" has almost become irrelevant. "Colonials" or "Patriots" have already been appropriated by other schools and colleges, but there must be some name out there that can play on W&M's three centuries-plus heritage. School team names can change, after all; for several decades, University of Maryland teams were called "Old Liners" (for the Old Line State).

Posted by: Vincent | May 18, 2006 10:35 AM

Every time someone puts forth an opinion on this subject (pro or con) they find some Native American Indians to quote who offer support for their position (pro/con). But you could just as easily find some - maybe MORE - that would give the OPPOSITE opinion.

So who gets to win and declare Indians are on their side? Do we just count up all the Indian votes across the country?

It's always this lazy argument, like, "See, Indians agree with me. Here are 3 of them." Using these names and logos is supposedly not offensive as long as you can find SOME Indians to quote that are not offended.

Posted by: Hoya From La Jolla | May 18, 2006 10:37 AM

I'm just happy the NCAA is focusing on important issues like this instead of the declining GPAs of most athlete-students, thier similarly dismal graduation rates, the propensity for these same athlete-students to skip out on their education after a year or two of college to go pro.

All of these issues are just plain trivial when stacked up against a team's logo/mascot.

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 10:45 AM

I think the key problem with the NCAA's reasoning here is that it almost admitted that "Tribe" in and of itself was not offensive, but that in the hands of W&M's opponent's it might be twisted so as to be offensive.

That, to me, is wholly different from saying "calling a team 'Redskins' is offensive to Native Americans" (which, incidentally, I agree with despite being a lifelong fan; I only hope Snyder changes the mascot before I have kids, because I can't justify raising my kids to follow a team with a racist mascot).

Posted by: OD | May 18, 2006 10:51 AM

Let's rename the football team the Washington Gangsta Rappers and the soccer team the Washington Wetbacks and the baseball team the Washington White Flight. There is a difference between naming a team "Greasers" and calling them "Matadors". It is the same distinction that holds between "Redskins" and "Braves". I work at the National Museum of the American Indian. None of the dozens of Native people I know would tolerate being called a redskin to their face.

Posted by: DR | May 18, 2006 10:53 AM

Wow, Mr. Fisher. I'm really surprised. Actually, given the fact that most Americans have limited knowledge of the Indian community history at all, I shouldn't really be that surprised.

American Indian caricatures promote stereotypes. Ever think about the fact that not all tribes lived in teepees or wore feathers in their headdress? Probably not. When you have Indian-esque names associated with images, you create stereotypes which are generally untrue.

We're talking about the most subjugated group in America (not only historically...but present day as well). No other minority group in this country would ever be referred to in such an offensive manner as the term "Redskin" connotates to the Indian community. It makes me cringe, frankly.

Posted by: former reservation worker | May 18, 2006 10:57 AM

I'd support the Washington Gangsta Rappers. I'd even buy their jerseys if the logo was cool enough. Kidding.

I think the issue is more complex though. It becomes a question of whether the "Tribe" moniker can/will be twisted by fans (at home AND away) into something that is offensive. And, to the extent that home/away fans do the traditional dress-up/tomahawk chop/chanting stuff, yes, that's offensive.

The Bullets name never offended me, because fans did not have the habit of firing their gats into the rafters after a made basket.

Posted by: OK.... | May 18, 2006 10:58 AM

You're so right...the waving one's hand as a tomohawk...watching a stadium full of thirty to forty thousand fans...old and young, black and white, doing it together as they madly cheer on their team. Yes, THAT's offensive.

What a terrible thing to unify a city around a popular sports team. Who the !@#$%^&* cares what their name is?

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 11:02 AM

Hey Glover Park, have you ever watched a Western?

Do you remember what the Tomahawk chop is? It's what the "savages" would do to a wagon train once they had it surrounded, and before they scalped/kidnapped/raped everybody.

So yes, it's offensive.

Posted by: OK.... | May 18, 2006 11:08 AM

Oh, please...could you be more literal? You're missing the forest for the trees -- these names and actions bring people together. We should celebrate that rather than nitpick and over-analyze every single thing in society!

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 11:10 AM

Kumbaya, Glover Park.

I'm sure you also think that all reservation schools are teeming with computers and brand new schoolbooks.

If you really want to "bring people together", maybe you should focus on informing your leaders about issues like that relying on sports teams. Sports is big money and most of it sure isn't coming towards the plebes.

Someone said something about Snyder being justified for not wanting to change the team name (in the interest of business)...if that is what our country has come to, pretty sad.

Posted by: former reservation worker | May 18, 2006 11:15 AM

Responding to "Hoya From La Jolla", I agree that you can find some Native Americans that find term "XYZ" offensive and then some Native Americans that find term "XYZ" inoffensive.

However, who am I (a white male) to say that "XYZ" is offensive to Native Americans? I am not a Native American. I do not know what offends Native Americans. I MIGHT know what offends _A_ Native American (i.e. my Native American friend tells me what offends him) but that doesn't mean the term is offensive to ALL Native Americans.

_I_ am offended by the name Redskins. Not because how it makes Native Americans feel but how _I_ interpret it and how it makes ME feel. (joking) Snyder should change the icon to a potato. :)

People get so worked up and trying to figure out what might or might not offend somebody else. True, some names are obviously going to offend - so avoid those. However, if the leader of the Native American tribe near W&M says "Tribe" doesn't offend his nation, then let it be.

Posted by: Rob | May 18, 2006 11:16 AM

Thanks for making all kinds of asusmptions about me. I know a lot more about disadvantaged populations than you think and have done more work on that issue than you'll ever know.

Your point is quite right though, let's focus on improving living conditions and schools on reservations rather than arguing about the stupid name of a sports team.

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 11:19 AM

Please write about something else. You have added nothing of value to add. I am surprised that someone is surprised that you would take this positon.

Your ignorance of the topic is only exceeded by your arrogance.

Posted by: Dennis Daniels | May 18, 2006 11:21 AM

"how would the NCAA justify condemning one set of indian mascots and not others?"

Exactly. To do that would require people in positions of authority to use judgment and/or discretion, when a zero-tolerance policy just solves everything without further argument.

Personally, I hope that FSU will take this invitation to walk away from the NCAA and the BCS and the APR and all that other nonsense. If the Noles persuade enough of their peer institutions to depart as well (or if the NCAA backs down against the most prominent "offender"), then the Nickname Nazis may end up destroying the whole system. What a feather in their cap!

Posted by: athea | May 18, 2006 11:22 AM

My name is Bill. I am offended that a team in Buffalo calls themselves the Buffalo "Bills." After Buffalo lost four straight Super Bowls, I became traumatized by the ridicule my family and friends poured upon me.

I call on the Buffalo team to immediatly take steps to change their name. "Bills" is highly offensive and has affected my mental health.

Posted by: Bill in DC | May 18, 2006 11:40 AM

I didn't say that Snyder was "JUSTIFIED for not wanting to change the team name (in the interest of business)". I was just making the point that I can see what his motiviations are and how not changing might mean more $$$ for his business. I happen to think that changing would be the best thing. He's currently seen as a money grubbing meddlesome such-and-such. It might even be better (long term) for his business if he changed the logo.

I don't even see basic justification for the NCAA member schools desire not to change. As someone already said, history/legacy/tradition is not a reason to continue doing something. In fact, when you hear that as a consultant, you start tracking that ox to figure out how to gore it later. I would think that large schools (Florida State, etc) stand to make a fortune on merchandising if they change, plus they get some PR benefit. Small schools, would, at the very least, not lose much beyond having to re-buy uniforms and maybe re-paint the team buses. If, as an alum, you would no longer support the team because they changed the name, were you really that strong a supporter anyway?

Posted by: NCAA is correct | May 18, 2006 11:45 AM

It is offensive: it reduces a group of human beings to some sort of sub-human animal mascot.

I suppose, however, seeing that most people unflinchingly support the three centuries of de facto genocide of the Indians, it's no big deal to reduce them into some sort of grotesque commercial stereotype, either.

Posted by: gunnerbk | May 18, 2006 11:45 AM

Personally, I think it's a riot that anyone, ANYONE, wasn't sure about whether my previous comments were sarcastic or not. Please note that readers will consider that when assessing your own reply.

Mascots are used to present a team as powerful and victorious. They are used to give it a larger-than-life aire, and for that reason are generally "tough" or "mighty" creatures or groups. That's why names like Vikings or Warriors or Lions are chosen. Even Maryland manages to make its turtle mascot look powerful and confident. Historically, legendary fighters are included into this mix, and that includes Indian monikers as well as other groups such as the Celts, Norse, Germanics, African tribes, Pacific Islanders, the list goes on. Indian names are common in North America the same way that other groups are common in their parts of the world.

As times have changed, some of the names used to represent these groups have become demeaning or pejorative, which not only makes them inappropriate but frankly, ineffective and embarrassing. These names need to change. Point taken.

But the NCAA is using its financial clout (which is absolutely overpowering) to make decisions for individual colleges without considering the opinions of the school or the local culture. Local schools and their surrounding population are fully capable of making appropriate decisions on this.

Years back I taught a training course in South Dakota (I'm from Pennsylvania and quite white) where the majority of the students were Indians. After spending a week referring to them as "Native Americans" (an issue in their billing required me to address them as a group) they took a moment to explain that it sounded absurd and that I should refer to them as "Indians" since that's what they and everyone else called them. Tell me -- what term would you have used at that point?

The NCAA needs to understand that they don't have all the answers and shouldn't pretend they do. This is an issue that the school should decide. If I was William & Mary's President, I would ask the NCAA to assign a new mascot just to see what they would come up with.

On that note, go ahead. Come up with a new mascot for W&M. Toss one out right here, and just see if you can manage to come up with something people would like that not offend anyone. I'm telling you, it's going to be the name of a tree.

Posted by: John Edwards | May 18, 2006 11:46 AM

Bill - that is hilarious. My name is Will, so I think I can take offense since both names come from William.

For those teams that must give up their "offensive" nicknames, how about these replacements?: "The Bureaucrats", "The Laywers", "The Regulators", or "The Crusading Politicians".

Those mascosts would be much more intimidating than Lions, Tigers, or Bears. Also, the tomohawk chop could be replaced with the similar motion of delivering a subpoena.

Posted by: William aka Will | May 18, 2006 12:03 PM


You really can't be serious. To trivialize an issue that has been close to the Indian community for decades with such belittling humor is sad. Would you offer the same response to a discussion about a term offensive to African-Americans or gay/lesbian-Americans?

Glover Park,

You're right, I should not assume. And you're right, we should be focusing on the issues. However, an important issue is the marginalization of the culture by such stereotypes. Names are powerful. Images are powerful. Monikers are powerful. They create ideas in a person's sub-conscious. There are thousands of other names a team could use - why use names that connotation such bad feelings? I just don't get it. Indians are working very hard today to dispel such stereotypes. To see some fan dressed up "chief wardrobe" on primetime TV - can you imagine how it could potentially set all progress back?

Posted by: former reservation worker | May 18, 2006 12:04 PM

This is ridiculous. The NCAA admits that the name is not offensive, but b/c it might be it wants to ban it. That is almost as absurd as Bills being offensive to Bill. W&M actually educates it's student athletes - maybe the NCAA's time would be better spent focusing on that.

Posted by: W&M alum and former reservation worker | May 18, 2006 12:15 PM

"W&M actually educates it's student athletes" as opposed to, oh say, Florida State. It ain't called Free Shoes U. for nothing.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 12:25 PM

I can't believe Glover Park's assertion that the Tomahawk Chop brings people together, and that we should celebrate that.

A lynch mob brings people together too.

And if people accept the slippery slope argument for banning everything but tree names, then my slippery slope argument is just as good.

And since I love a challenge, here's some potential William and Mary nicknames, consistent with recent expansion franchise tradition of using things and not people: Heat, Magic, Nationals, Rockies, United, and all manner of growling furry animal. Nothing offensive in the bunch, except that there are probably no Grizzlies in Memphis. (No low-post scoring in Memphis either.)

Let the record show that you can pick a concept, an inanimate object or an animal and not offend people. "Sea-Dogs" is still available...

Posted by: Wow | May 18, 2006 12:33 PM

So, I guess the Philly "Eagles" is also offensive to native Americans. The eagle is the national bird symbol of our nation. It is not solely reserved for the representation of the native Americans.

Posted by: Gringo (because I'm white) | May 18, 2006 12:41 PM

In looking at the narrow interpretation by William & Mary President Gene Nichol is based on two things: (1) he's been on the job less than a year and (2) he's a constitutional attorney.

Posted by: W&M Alum | May 18, 2006 12:42 PM

I can't believe Glover Park's assertion that the Tomahawk Chop brings people together, and that we should celebrate that.

A lynch mob brings people together too.

That's keeping things in perspective! Idiot.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 12:53 PM

"That's keeping things in perspective! Idiot"

One stupid statement deserves another. Make an argument, fool.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 12:58 PM

In my four years at William and Mary, I never so much as saw the ridiculous tomahawk chopping nor witnessed anyone dressed in any type of stereotypical Native American clothing, facepaint, etc. In truth, even inebriated, the students at The College are just way too intelligent to publicly insult an ethnic group or embarass the institution.

Lastly, comparing W&M to FSU is like comparing The Post to the Weekly Reader.

Posted by: Another W&M alum | May 18, 2006 1:04 PM

Well, I think the Red Socks should change their name. It may start a fashion trend that I would rather not see!

Posted by: Smiling Politely | May 18, 2006 1:06 PM

In truth, even inebriated, the students at The College are just way too intelligent to publicly insult an ethnic group or embarass the institution.

Yeah, you're right, otherwise intelligent students never do anything stupid when drunk. Just look at Duke, oh wait...

Posted by: hah! | May 18, 2006 1:10 PM

First, no one who has ever been to a sporting event at both W&M and Duke would conflate the two.

Second, you have to be kidding me with your line of logic. Students (and people, for that matter) are always going to be capable of doing horrible things. So, we should ban the use of the word "Tribe" on W&M's campus because some woman was raped by some student-athletes at a university campus in another state? Dear God.

Posted by: Virginian | May 18, 2006 1:17 PM

"Duke" might be offensive to John Wayne's family. Be careful!!

Posted by: WB | May 18, 2006 1:31 PM

I went to W&M and UVa. I think that UVa should give up the name "Cavaliers" because, truth be told, there have been times I have acted cavalierly about things that were very very serious. UVa should not condone that by using the name "Cavaliers".

Wikipedia says:

Tribe (disambiguation)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Tribe can refer to:

A Tribe is a social structure.
Tribe (biology) is a taxonomic classification in biology.
Tribe (band) is a musical group.
Tribe (album) is an album by Bernie Taupin.
Tribe (Queensrÿche album) is an album by Queensrÿche.
Tribe (TV series) by the BBC.
The Tribes (video game) video game series.
Laurence Tribe is a Harvard law professor and author. is a social networking website.
Tribe, the name of the athletic teams of the College of William and Mary.
The Tribe, the nickname of the Cleveland Indians.

Perhaps Gene Nichols should argue that W&M has changed its name from "Tribe" (social structure) to "Tribe" (a taxonomic classification in biology).

Posted by: Tribal Wahoo | May 18, 2006 1:33 PM

So, former reservation worker, we should all work to conform to your (or the NCAA's) definition of righteous symbolism? Then and only then can we start worrying about malnutrition, lack of education, poverty, alcoholism, etc?

I'm not going to defend the tomahawk chop, or lynchings, or stereotypes from westerns from 50 years ago. To try and equate the W&M issue with those is where you betray your inner idealogue... you're more interested in trying to bang the drum of your orthodoxy than to actually focus on meaningful change. To not acknowledge that this is at the very least in a grey area betrays your desire to crow about your supposed moral righteousness than to actually affect change on behalf of those you portray yourself as supporting.

Posted by: Ummm... | May 18, 2006 1:39 PM

The majority of Americans behave as though the right not to be offended by anything, anyone, or at any time was embodied in our Constitution. It isn't. NCAA's ruling is inane. After all, the corporate and vernacular names of almost all North American aboriginal groups includes "tribe". Should that be forbidden?

Posted by: korm | May 18, 2006 1:48 PM

Changing these names is just a token and meaningless gesture to try and someway makeup for mass genocide that occured in our past. Doing this will not change history and will not solve the real problems that currently affect the native american community. We should all be more focused on the REAL issues that affect this group of people, NOT semantics. Doing otherwise only wastes time and energy.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 1:49 PM

this discussion reminds me of a discussion i had with a former boyfriend. he absolutely could not understand why anybody would find the term "redskin" offensive and at the same time hated it when i used the term "frat" to discribe a fraternity. to him the word "frat" was an insult. i told him that i didn't mean to insult anybody i was just too lazy to say the entire word "fraternity" and yet when i drew a parallel between his dislike of the word "frat" and others who dislike the word "redskin" he didn't (or wouldn't) see the similarity.

Posted by: quark | May 18, 2006 2:02 PM

JW, there were teams called "Crackers." In Atlanta, the AAA baseball team that played in Fulton County before the Braves got there.

And parenthetically, the Negro League team that played there were the Atlanta Black Crackers.

You know what team name would really offend? The Crusading Boat Rockers With No Regard For Peace.

Posted by: King Tuchas | May 18, 2006 2:06 PM

Its not that there is a constitutional right not to be offended.

It's that if a person or entity knowingly contributes to offending someone, particularly an entity founded in higher learning (which should know better) that entity opens itself up to criticism.

As for the argument that this issue is small in the overall scope of stuff negatively impacting american indians, well, that's true. However, eliminating this type of caracature of the indians might make it easier for us (or our kids) to see them as real, agrieved people, rather than the old stereotypes. Also, it's an issue of basic respect -- If someone takes it as a slap, stop slapping, then work on the other stuff. Lastly, assuming the NCAA sees this as a real issue, this is how they do their part. They have no power to legislate doing anything else and it would be silly of them to wait around for all other injustices to be corrected before they make what they consider to be their contribution to correcting an injustice. If not them, who? If not now, when? Can I get an Amen?

Posted by: NCAA is correct | May 18, 2006 2:07 PM

Change the name of Miami's team now! Or else we'll come out of the ocean and jack slap all of you!!

Posted by: Flipper | May 18, 2006 2:25 PM

I continue to wonder why FSU gets away with the Seminole- dressed up war indian, tommy chop, the whole bit- and nobody else does. Is it because Seminoles are a specific tribe and the specific tribe says ithad no issues with the name? Because North Dakota's appeal was denied after one of the state's four Sioux tribes complained about the name Fighting Sioux. Maybe W&M just needs to call themselves the Pamunkey Tribe.

Posted by: Todd | May 18, 2006 2:26 PM

NCAA is correct said: "this is how they [the NCAA] do their part."

The problem is that the NCAA is only doing something negative. They are trying to get rid of older stereotypes (which is good), but they are doing nothing to replace them with positive images of native americans. All they are succeeding in doing is removing native americans further from the national consciousness, and enraging school supporters. Where's the money for education programs, for encouraging native american athletes, for studying native american history? Millions for football, not one dime for real education!

If they truly wanted to end negative stereotypes, the NCAA should be supporting W&M in this - 1) an inclusive, positive name (Tribe) 2) a rather innocuous motif (feather) 3) substantial support and tradition of study of native american cultures and 4) a school where student-athlete actually means student-athlete and not "minor leaguer".

When the NCAA finishes its little crusade, there won't be any negative images of native americans in sports, but there won't be any positive ones, either. Rather than pride in the Tribe or the Seminoles - which will encourage people to study the past (the good and bad)- all we'll have are old westerns. Is that a good thing?

Posted by: Yet another W&M alum | May 18, 2006 2:29 PM

I continue to wonder why FSU gets away with the Seminole- dressed up war indian, tommy chop, the whole bit- and nobody else does. Is it because Seminoles are a specific tribe and the specific tribe says ithad no issues with the name? Because North Dakota's appeal was denied after one of the state's four Sioux tribes complained about the name Fighting Sioux. Maybe W&M just needs to call themselves the Pamunkey Tribe.

I believe the seminoles have made a public statement that the take no offense to the usage of their name/image and are in fact even honored by it, so the school gets to keep the name.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 2:32 PM

Heat -- Derogatory nickname for the police, encourages disrespect of the law. Note that FUZZy animals could be construed here too. A bit dodgey, but give it a shot. Several animals still remain.

Nationals -- Aliens residing in this country would likely be offended. Foreign players might be singled out for derision.

United -- Zzzzz. Unoffensive. "Individuals" would be as effective. Obscenely safe.

Rockies -- Has a chance. Could include "Prairies" and "Wetlands" as well which would go over big with the green crowd. Geologic features are hard to offend.

Magic -- Dude, let me tell you, the Religious Right is already all over this name. Bad idea. They also make a stink about the Blue Demons, Devils, and anything else that sounds remotely unChristian. Back slowly away from this name and make sure they can see your hands as you do it.

The other thing that I came up with is professions such as Steelers or Oilers. The W&M Students. There's a name for you.

Posted by: John Edwards | May 18, 2006 2:33 PM

By the way, back to my other point -- is no one interested in discussing the fact that the NCAA is using their obscenely huge financial hammer to force their will on a private institution? Is William & Mary not a sufficiently enlightened institution to have this discussion within its student body, faculty, staff and alumni? If they wanted to, the NCAA could REQUIRE offensive mascots and schools would have no recourse but to comply due to the sheer volume of money they would lose. The original article should have at least broached this subject, let alone this dialogue that has followed.

Oh, and I'm an Old Sea Dog -- I find the idea of that as a mascot completely offensive. How dare you? (This is the sarcastic part.)

Posted by: John Edwards | May 18, 2006 2:44 PM

Hmmm. "Yet another W&M alum" has convinced me. NCAA should do both positive and negative.

I feel like the first guy in history to ever have his opinion modified by someone else's blog posting.

Posted by: NCAA is correct | May 18, 2006 2:47 PM

Another question that so far has yet to be raised, is why is W&M fighting this? To my recollection, the penalty for noncompliance is not being able to host post-season games, and so is irrelevant for W&M. This isn't FSU or any of the big schools that go to the bowls and take a big part in the postseason.

The president could tell the NCAA where to go and just keep the name and emblem, but has chosen not to. It's nice to see the little guy take on the crass bully, and it suits W&M's venerable reputation.

Posted by: Yet another W&M alum | May 18, 2006 2:50 PM

WHo exactly was the tomohawk chop derrogatory to? The white man, who got his head lopped off when they tried to take away the tribal lands of Native Americans or Indians or whatever the P.C. uberfuhrers deem to be the correct term.

My point, though badly abused and maligned is a simple one: let's celebrate the unity achieved by people of all stripes cheering for the same team in one unified voice.

My other point: the NCAA ought to be spending its time on real issues like the falling GPAs and graduation rates of athlete-students.

My last point: changing the name "Tribe," "Braves" or "Redskins" isn't going to do a damn thing for racial or ethnic intolerance in this country. It's not even a good first step. The fact that this blog can ignite so much passion (I think I've been called an idiot at least three or four times) only shows how badly misguided this whole f-ed up country really is.

It's called perspective, people. Get some.

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 2:51 PM

Not to sound hostile but being sensitive to crimes against humanity and the slaughter of a people should not be mocked by the ignorant with comparisons to plants or the feelings of pets. The settlers called us Redskins as a term for their enemy and made it a sport to kill. How many native americans do you see in your neighborhood, office, TV (not the actors dressed in make-up)? Just as the bison almost disappeared, we were forced to reservations with unfit conditions, deprived of education/opportunities and now insulted at sporting events by those who claim innocence.

Posted by: Native American | May 18, 2006 2:52 PM

Featured article on

The Alligator Is Not a Man-Eater -- Unless, of Course, It's Feeling Hungry

Thank YOU, University of Florida Gators! It's another fine mess you've gotten us into!

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 2:55 PM

Unfortunately, it is much easier to change a mascot then a stereotype or racist intent.

Posted by: sad | May 18, 2006 2:55 PM

For all the people defending the use of the word "tribe," are you willing to concede that the use of the word "Redskin" is very different? For instance, wouldn't some people rightfully be upset if Notre Dame called its team the "Fighting Micks"? Indeed, it's hard to imagine that any team would ever think to use such a name. Names offensive to minorities should never have been used in the first place, and it seems odd to hang onto them now. Why should we value our loyalty to a team name (not the team, but the team name) over our interest in civilized discourse. You don't have to be PC to think that you should avoid unnecessarily offending people.

Posted by: Ryan | May 18, 2006 2:55 PM

Oh my, be careful when selecting environmental names! They might be offensive!

Posted by: WB | May 18, 2006 3:06 PM

Simply put, these mascots are offensive. As a native american, I do find that fans in general do not care how these these mascots offend people. The simple fact that it offends me is the only thing that matters to me. If you've had to grow up seeing little white kids dress up and basically act like idiots I think you would have a different opinion about the matter. Especially when you think that you get to determine what is offensive to me. I'll admit that there are schools and teams that I cheer for, that do have those mascots. Because there is a little source of pride. But the minute I see a redskins game where there is always a shot of a person who obivously not native american whooping it up, is kinda like seeing a minstrel show. Too far, maybe. But don't for one minute sit there and try to justify, just a little bit of ignorance can't do any harm.

Posted by: ben | May 18, 2006 3:08 PM

I just don't see how someone who has an understanding of what the Tomahawk chop represents can see it as being anything but derogatory.

How is doing the chop somehow more "unifying" (Glover Park) than everyone just clapping and cheering? Somehow we're more unified if we simultaneously perpetuate a stereotype?

Posted by: Sheesh | May 18, 2006 3:14 PM

I'm not suggesting that we're more unified doing the Chop, merely that it is way in which fans do indeed unify at a professional sporting contest.

Does your white liberal guilt feel assuaged by prtesting the tomohawk when it was usually the white man that got chopped?

This is such an inane argument. I just know that if the Redskins and the Braves change their names then no one will ever discriminate against anyone again. Oh Auntie Em! There's no place like home!


Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 3:17 PM

Who even thought it was a good idea to name a team the redskins (or fighting irish for that matter) so many years ago? Names like that would be shouted down today for good and obvious reasons. Were people really that much more stupid back in the day?

Posted by: whazit | May 18, 2006 3:19 PM

To all the people who joked about dogs, other animals, plants, etc as team names, and who argue that Indian names are every bit as valid, the point I tried to make before was that on the one hand we have names that describe PEOPLE, and on the other hand we have names that describes things which are NOT PEOPLE (animals, objects, forces of nature, etc). I HOPE we can at least agree that people (yes, even Indians) are on a level above animals and objects. Every time you make a joke like that, you are equating Indians or other ethnic groups to animals!

I agree that people can take offense to virtually any team name. So, you complain that there would be a slippery slope and no name would be safe from criticism. How about this for a dividing line: (1) names based on PEOPLE, and (2) names based on things which are NOT PEOPLE. I argue that (1) should not be allowed, and (2) should be allowed. Easy enough?

Posted by: College Park | May 18, 2006 3:20 PM

W&M was founded to educate "indians" and given a mascot that represents the people of that school. So does that mean that Catholic University should have a mascot that people think of catholic priests? Like a molesting priest, or was Notre Dame founded to educate alcoholic, violent irishmen? Or yale, should change thier mascot to a picture of George W. Bush, I think they all could find a lot of pride in that.

Posted by: ben | May 18, 2006 3:26 PM

May I ask why none of you are using your real names? Taketh not pride in your posts?

Posted by: John Edwards | May 18, 2006 3:28 PM

College Park, then it would ok to name a team "Tomahawks", "Teepees", or "Smoke Signals" and no one would be offended? Those names are non-people names.

Posted by: WB | May 18, 2006 3:28 PM

Hey Glover, I have no white liberal guilt. Because hey, I'm a black centrist.

I just have decided to give a crap about offending folks. To do unto them as they've done to me. Something the religious right forgets much more often than the far left (since we're being political now).

Posted by: Sheesh | May 18, 2006 3:37 PM

Those alligator attacks down in Florida must be a result of them taking offense to the Univ. of Florida depicting them in an unfavorable light as their mascot. :)

Posted by: Jeb Bush | May 18, 2006 3:37 PM

And I'm not using my real name in case the NSA is watching, and one of you people is a terrorist.

Posted by: Sheesh | May 18, 2006 3:38 PM

For my money, having spent ten years of my life working in that community, there is no one more INtolerant than a liberal.

This whole thread is evidence of that. Either subscribe to their point of view or you're a racist thug.

For the record, I'm white, I'm liberal, and I don't give a damn about the names of my sports teams.

I guess someone is going to knock on my door and confiscate my ACLU membership card now. How's THAT for tolerance!

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 3:42 PM

College Park (if that's your real name), I'm not sure why you are so concerned about one mascot being on a "level above" another. A nickname like "Cavaliers" or "Crusaders" or "Americans" being above "Grizzlies" or "Huskies" is pretty much an arbitrary point. The issue is whether a particular mascot is offensive to someone.

"Crusader" has become verboten, as I am sure "Saracen" would be. Oddly, "Viking" which refers specifically to marauders is still considered ok. I guess the Scandinavians don't have a good PR group.

I'm more concerned with the nature of the mascot. "Warriors" is largely an occupation, although it could be construed with particular groups of people. "Fighting Irish" is on the edge but still serves the role of a mascot -- it implies something fearsome or intimidating. "Drunken Irishmen" is a slur -- a sort of joke mascot that is offensive in its nature. Were Notre Dame to show the Leprachaun with a whiskey bottle in its hand I imagine there would be trouble.

"Seminoles" is not judgemental which is likely why the Seminoles don't mind it as a nickname.

It's the attitude of the name that makes it offensive, not the object itself. That being said, is "Tribe" a problem? They could as easily call themselves "Family" or "Clan" (note the spelling please) or "Village."

This is the issue the WILLIAM AND MARY needs to tackle. The NCAA should step aside.

Posted by: John Edwards | May 18, 2006 3:46 PM

If we're dropping The Tribe (wimpy nickname anyway), we need to go with a savage reptile, like The Terps. How about the Crocodiles, named for the wily ones in Crim Dell?

William and Mary - The College So Nice, They Named It Twice.

Posted by: MaryWilliam Alum | May 18, 2006 3:52 PM

How about changing The Tribe to The Klan? Wouldn't affend any Native Americans, and has the Southern history angle.

Posted by: MaryWilliam Alum | May 18, 2006 3:54 PM

The can we name any team in the North the [insert city here] Meddlesome Yankees?

I am forever amused by the people who feel the need to dictate what other people should think and believe, and in this case, cheer for. And all of this in the name of tolerance and equality.

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 3:58 PM

I want to know why the UVa team is called the Cavaliers. What do they have against Roundheads?

Posted by: MaryWilliam Alum | May 18, 2006 4:06 PM

"Does your white liberal guilt feel assuaged by prtesting the tomohawk when it was usually the white man that got chopped?"

It's a fun point you make, considering a) not every tribe tolerated that sort of behavior, so, you know, way to buy into that stereotype, and b) there were those little things like germ-ridden blankets and goods, the Trail of Tears, reservations in general, the denial of tribes' rights to embrace their cultures, broken treaties left and right.

But the white man was the wronged party here.

I'm not white, I'm Indian (no no - the *other* Indian), and I'm in no way liberal. However, I do have a basic understanding of history. The mass tomahawk chop is really rather silly anyway (we're going to . . . scalp the other team?), and your defense of it makes little sense.

All that said, everything will offend someone. But we, as a society, will accept something that offends a relative few where we don't accept something that offends many, and I think that's what allows many people to accept "Tribe" but not "Redskins." Redskins is a racial slur, whereas Tribe is a word used for any number of things that have nothing to do with Native Americans. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Personally, I am offended by the utter lameness of the names Orioles and Ravens. Hooray! We're birds.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 4:10 PM

To repeat: I defend the chop merely as a tool that unfies people at a sporting event. As any athelete who has played in front of a crowd, and they will tell you what an incredible feeling it is to have 40,000+ people cheering you on. So if we want to take issue with the chop, it is, as I see it, a slippery slope to take issue with everything else. How exciting would sports be, if we were all expected to sit demurely and silently in our seats and only clapping politely when our team scores? It would be about as exciting as watching golf.

Oh yeah, that'd be fun.

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 4:17 PM

"utter lameness of the names Orioles and Ravens. Hooray! We're birds."

Now, that just tears it! Would you rather see the teams named "Bromos" and the "Fells Pointers"?

Posted by: Ballimer | May 18, 2006 4:22 PM

John Edwards, your fired. You havn't did a damn thing today but blog about W&M.

Posted by: Human resources | May 18, 2006 4:24 PM

For all those who defend traditions sine die, remember Churchill. When informed of the grand traditions of the Royal Navy he asked "Which one, rum, sodomy or flogging?".

Posted by: TonyR | May 18, 2006 4:25 PM

Glover Park, I can see how the chop could hurt someone. If someone did the chop while holding Dippin Dots, the Dots may become a projectile and take someones eye out! Ban the Dippin Dots!

Posted by: WB | May 18, 2006 4:27 PM

I'm suprised that fans aren't more bumptious at Redskin games. Where is the dressing up as braves, the pounding of drums, the eating of pemmican?

Posted by: MaryWilliam Alum | May 18, 2006 4:27 PM

Glover Park -

"So if we want to take issue with the chop, it is, as I see it, a slippery slope to take issue with everything else."

Not so much of a slippery slope. Cheering wildly, chanting a team name (or a player name), or booing when the opposing team scores - none of these actions have anywhere near the historical significance and baggage as the chop does, unless the team name is something like, say, Redskins.

Other teams that are not named after ethnic groups, their fans can cheer them on without resorting to things like the chop - you make a huge leap of logic by assuming we either take no issue with anything or we sit primly and golf-clap.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 4:27 PM

No, No, TonyR! Rum may be offensive!

Posted by: WB | May 18, 2006 4:31 PM

I read that William and Mary closed its doors to Indians in 1777.

Posted by: MaryWilliam Alum | May 18, 2006 4:35 PM

In point of fact, no one at Redskins games does the chop. It is generally associated with the Atlanta Braves of baseball.

But let's look at the Redskins for a moment. First, there's the guy who dresses up as a Native American Tribal Chief. Of course, he's African-American and been doing this for 20+ years. How's that for irony?

Then there are the Hoggettes -- four overweight, white guys who dress up in pig noses and house frocks.

The Hoggettes are far more often associated as an image with the team.

Oh, the irony!

Posted by: Glover Park | May 18, 2006 4:41 PM

I think Marc misunderstands political correctness. It's not that "intelligent people have somehow persuaded themselves that if you create verbal taboos, you will alter thoughts", but that intelligent people create verbal taboos to mark out the stupid. Only the ignorant are prejudiced, so if you continue to root for "The Tribe", you are one of the Morlocks, not one of the Eloi. And who cares what a Morlock thinks?

Posted by: MaryWilliam Alum | May 18, 2006 4:45 PM

I am anticipating the die-off of the Hogettes. They are sooo over. Do the Skins even have any Hogs? I like the guy who dresses as Super Skin.

Posted by: MaryWilliam Alum | May 18, 2006 4:51 PM

Someone hit the nail on the head here--this is a decision that needs to be made based on INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES. The NCAA should take a look at the culture of the school--if the W&M students, alumni, and community really do not portray their mascot in a manner that would be offensive to native americans, and especially if the local TRIBE takes no offense, who cares if they keep it? It's not offending anyone! This may NOT, however, be the case at every school. Not every decision can be black and white. (Gee, I hope I didn't offend anyone with that expression...)

Secondly, whoever was making the comments of human vs. non-human mascots, that's just ridiculous; mascots are about showing strength and pride. That's why we don't take offense to:
-The Dukes (Go JMU! Although the Duke Dog is the visible mascot... is this offensive to both humans and animals?) or the Kings or the Knights or any other form of royalty
-The Fighting Irish (Notre Dame), The Highlanders (Radford), The Yankees, The Vikings--these are all names for various sections of the human population but are inoffensive. Quite honestly, I think "The Tribe" fits well into this category.
-the Volunteers
-the Pilgrims

My high school's mascot is the Warriors, and our symbol was a Native American... until this whole to-do came about, and now they're some sort of knight that looks like he's sleeping on a stack of books. That's more offensive to me...

Where is the line? DISCRETION!!

Posted by: Cat | May 18, 2006 4:53 PM

Cheering wildly, chanting a team name (or a player name), or booing when the opposing team scores - none of these actions have anywhere near the historical significance and baggage as the chop does, unless the team name is something like, say, Redskins.

I'd bet money that most of the people doing the chop don't even KNOW the historical significance of it (not that it is an excuse) Hell, saw a survey once where over 60% of the respondents couldn't name the first president of the united states. Sadly, many Americans either weren't paying attention or forgot what they learned in history class!

Posted by: daveyboy | May 18, 2006 4:59 PM

The Enslish names "William" and "Mary" shouldn't be used either, since references to English monarchs could be construed as anti-British. I just hope the NCAA's Committee on Native American Poverty, Homelessness and Health Care is just as active as their name police. Oh wait, there's no such committee.

Posted by: J from Bethesda | May 18, 2006 4:59 PM

Off-topic -- why would you name your team something like the Pilgrims? And what's your mascot at that point, a big Rock?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 5:05 PM

You could go with the "W&M Rocks", except the big wrestler actor guy would be offended. I say W&M goes nameless. "The W&M Void".

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2006 5:08 PM

So, this is how we finally rid the country of the Native Americans.
It's a clever ploy: we want to keep people from using their name in poor quality.

Yeah, sure. And those blankets were brand new.

By removing ALL the related names, we're removing rememberance. It's bad enough that the NA population dwindles.

Why do rich white people care so much about this? They feel ashamed, and they think they will feel better not being reminded that we wouldn't share our land with others.

One name should be changed: Redskins.
That is exactly like having a team called the New York N-bombs or Charlotte Crackers or the Washington Wetbacks. That name should be the focal point. But no, they lost, so they'll pick on the easy ones.


Posted by: Upset. | May 18, 2006 5:15 PM

Whazit asked why anyone thought it was a good idea to name a team the Redskins. I don't expect the story to change the minds of whazit or anyone else who thinks the name is an indefensible slur, but here's the story:

The Washington Redskins were originally the Boston Redskins, and they began their life as the Boston (football) Braves, because they played in Braves Field, where the Boston (baseball) Braves also played. The team later moved to Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, and took the name Redskins so as to keep, somewhat, the harmony of having the same/similar name as the baseball co-tenant.

So, two points: 1) for the earlier poster who said Braves is better than Redskins, the Redskins *were* the Braves at one point; 2) whatever else one might say about Redskins ownership, present or former, it's not as if they sat around and said "hey, let's find the worst Indian slur we can come up with and use it for the name of our football team!" It all comes down to marketing. It was as true in the 1930s as it is now.

Posted by: Dave | May 18, 2006 5:30 PM

Is there anyone alive in the whole corporate world who hasn't had to go through diversity/harassment/sensitivity training? There's a reason they keep telling us that the intention of the speaker carries far less weight than the perception of the listener. Tell a joke with racial or sexual content, and if it offends me, that matters more than whether or not you intended to cause offense. If I tell you it offends me and you persist, that matters more yet. Is that so hard to apply to the issue of Indian team names, logos, asinine tomahawk chants? Really?

Posted by: Joan Kennedy | May 18, 2006 6:20 PM

What will the Name Police go after next? Taco Bell? Bojangles Chicken? I guess someone will eventually be complaining about Maryland and Virginia because those states were named after white women.

Posted by: Lynn | May 18, 2006 6:53 PM

The Cleveland Indians have a logo, Chief Wahoo, with crimson skin, gargantuan teeth and a big hooked nose. How is that not mean, and how could a Native American be anything but incensed? And Chief Wahoo is actually something of an improvement! Earlier versions of the same logo are just hideous beyond belief, impossible to take in as anything but a slur. "Daddy, is that what people really think we look like?"

If the owners were really interested in making nice, I think they'd have their artists come up with a logo that portrayed Wahoo as comic-book-hero handsome. With the visual impact of maybe John Red Corn on King of the Hill. It might not call off the raid, but it would sure demonstrate some sorely needed goodwill.

Posted by: clevelandfan | May 18, 2006 7:09 PM

It's amazing to me when people say its "political correctness gone amok". We live in a country that thought it was okay to force people off their land onto reservations; own people (slavery); and put people in detention camps simply because of their heritage (Japanese during the war). History has proven that we're not sensitive to others so someone has to step up and do the right thing. If the teams were named "Whitey"; "PWT- Poor White Trash"; "Cracker" etc. I don't think the majority would think that "political correctness had gone amok".

Posted by: rlj | May 19, 2006 3:24 PM

This issue with the NCAA saying sports teams with Native American mascots is one that is particularly abrasive with me. As I have friends that are Native Americans and live on reservations, I believe that to use racial or ethnic slurs against them is wrong. However, in attending a college that was named after a specific Indian tribe and uses the mascot of the Indians, which the tribe has given its support for my alma mater to continue using, I find the NCAA's stance idiocy at best.
If the a tribe is invovled in the naming of a school or mascot, or the school was founded to provide education to Native Americans, it is my belief the NCAA should allow the name to be used. Besides, I think it's a pretty safe bet that the majority of people coming up with this NCAA mascot ruling are probably white and male. And thus, in my mind, have no reason or way to comprehend the suffering of Native Americans or other ethnic groups beyond their own. Therefore, when a group of Native Americans declares the mascot of a college non-offensive, the NCAA should allow the mascot of Indians, Tribe, Seminoles, etc. to be used. End of discussion.

Posted by: A Concerned Alum | May 19, 2006 3:26 PM

I think the "Redskins" name is offensive and and embarrassment, and I'm not "Indian."

I don't know why this is even an issue, or why some are so defensive about using "Indian" names for sports teams when so many consider it offensive.

Posted by: lily | May 19, 2006 3:52 PM

Dear W&M,

We have tribes too. (12 total, of which Judah & Levi are probably the most well known.) Maybe you can replace the feathers on the logo with payes (the long curling sideburns that ultra-Orthodox Jewish men wear). Personally, I wish the Baltimore football team was called not the Ravens but The Rabbis. I can just imagine the helmet, with a faux-yarmulke design.

And if you think this is insensitive b/c we're not an historically oppressed people, you obviously don't know a thing about world history.

Posted by: Jewish fan | May 19, 2006 4:10 PM

"The Dukes (Go JMU! Although the Duke Dog is the visible mascot... is this offensive to both humans and animals?)"

James Madison U. teams are known as the Dukes in honor of one of the school's early presidents, whose last name was Duke. (Like Florida State, it was a women's college for many decades before going coeducational.)

I know Sherwood High in Montgomery County calls its teams Warriors, but I believe the logo shows a Robin Hood-type archer (Sherwood Forest, get it?) rather than a Native American. I once lived in New Jersey, and Franklin High is also the Warriors, but uses a Roman gladiator-type character.

"Dear W&M,

We have tribes too. (12 total, of which Judah & Levi are probably the most well known.) Maybe you can replace the feathers on the logo with payes (the long curling sideburns that ultra-Orthodox Jewish men wear). Personally, I wish the Baltimore football team was called not the Ravens but The Rabbis. I can just imagine the helmet, with a faux-yarmulke design."

I could make jokes about pigskins in this context...but I won't.

Posted by: Vincent | May 20, 2006 2:12 AM

Coming late to the party, but as someone who is as loony a lefty as they come and is also a W&M alumna, I wanted to answer this:

"For all the people defending the use of the word "tribe," are you willing to concede that the use of the word "Redskin" is very different?"

Well, God, yes, of course. I'm repelled by the name "Redskins" and never once rooted for the team very much because they continue to insist on maintaining such an ignorant, ugly name. "Tribe" isn't ignorant, or ugly, and it's not like W&M found one Native American dude to endorse the nickname -- it has the overwhelming support of the native communities in the area.

And for the commenter who suggested the Crocodiles... heh, we could go with the inhabitants of Crim Dell in -my- day, but I don't know that the teams would be very excited about being the Gay Ducks.

Posted by: Sheila | May 24, 2006 6:42 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company