NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I’m Irish. Some of my distant relatives faced all of the bitter discrimination that many newcomers to our country faced. “Irish and dogs need not apply” was common on many help wanted signs. The stereotypes were that Irish were lazy drunks, brawlers, and Catholic in a majority-protestant land.
Now consider the University of Notre Dame sports teams. Should I be offended at the Fighting Irish? Their mascot is the ultimate Irish stereotype… a leprechaun. Yet, I don’t feel anything. Maybe it’s because the Irish have so blended into the fabric of American life that they don’t face any day-to-day discrimination. Maybe it’s also because sports teams are named for things that are being honored, not ridiculed.
The NCAA has gone too far with an outright ban on Indian names. Unless, of course, your team is the Florida State Seminoles. They have tribal blessing, so it’s been determined that ‘Seminoles’ is not offensive. North Dakota State, though, has permission from most, but not all, of the factions of the Sioux tribe. Their name will be dropped. The University of Illinois, where most state residents consider themselves “Illini”, will also have to change their name because it has Indian connotations to some. My Alma Mater, Syracuse University, changed its mascot from the Onondagan Indian Chief to citrus fruit, but kept the name “Orangemen”. St. John’s University, which called itself the “Redmen” because the color jerseys their football team wore, still changed its name because of the appearance of possible offense.
The change the Wisconsin legislature is considering is even more disingenuous. It allows the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to conduct an investigation if someone complains that they are offended by an Indian nickname, mascot or logo. Then the school must prove a negative, that its name does not offend. They could be ordered to change.
Suppose we were to apply the same Indian nickname standard to other state policies… the upcoming smoking ban, state tax policy, state spending, DNR regulations. Anyone who’s offended can complain, and then the offending agency has the burden of proving that no offense should be taken. That’s absurd. Almost as absurd as the bill that the State Senate is likely to pass tomorrow.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau