Fortune no longer favours the Braves

August 19, 2005

US university sports teams have been barred from using names such as Redmen, Savages and Braves if they want to compete in the national league.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which oversees intercollegiate athletics, has banned from its championship tournaments institutions with "hostile and abusive" team names derived from Native American culture.

It said a number of team names were insensitive to Native Americans. But some of the 18 universities affected vowed to sue, calling the decision political correctness run amok.

"Colleges and universities may adopt any mascot they wish. That is an institutional matter," said Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford and chairman of the NCAA's executive committee. "But as a national association, we believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at the championship events that we control."

Playing in NCAA tournaments is lucrative for major universities, most of whom will now have to choose between sponsorship and broadcast revenues and pressure from alumni not to change their team names.

T. K. Wetherell, president of Florida State University, which calls its teams the Seminoles after a native Florida tribe, said the move was "outrageous and insulting". He said forcing teams to drop Native American names showed a "complete lack of appreciation for cultural diversity".

Dr Wetherell said that the Seminoles name created a "close bond" between FSU and the Seminole tribe. He said he would "pursue all legal avenues to ensure that this unacceptable decision is overturned, and that this university will for ever be associated with the unconquered spirit of the Seminole tribe".

Fourteen universities have so far dropped their names after critics complained about stereotypical imagery. A mascot dressed as a native American chief in war paint and headdress mounted on a horse appears at FSU games, for example, and the school's athletics logo depicts a screaming American Indian warrior.

The ban, which comes into force in 2008, affects the University of Illinois Fighting Illini, the Mississippi College Choctaws, the Carthage College Redmen, the Bradley University Braves, the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and 12 others.

By February, schools wishing to compete in NCAA championships will have to obscure or remove Native American symbolism from publications and from student uniforms.

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