15 August 2005

FSU battles the NCAA ... and its own alumni

Last week, the NCAA announced new rules that would no longer allow teams, which use American Indian mascots, nicknames or imagery considered "hostile or abusive", to host NCAA championship events. The NCAA cited 18 specific teams that would be in violation of their new rules, but so far Florida State University is making the most noise over this half-baked plan.

FSU had the momentum to change the rule until some prominent alumni opened their mouths. The school will likely prevail in their fight with the NCAA, but not without suffering a public relations disaster of their own. Unfortunately, a few old Noles couldn't resist the urge to shoot off their mouths and to insult Native Americans in the process.

For the record, I think this whole issue is something about nothing. FSU has been working with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for many years to ensure that use of Chief Osceola is done with dignity. I think it is disgraceful that the NCAA issued their rule without consulting any of the interested parties. FSU and the Seminoles claim that they were not consulted.

The issue that led to the recent fracas was the NCAA's claim that the Seminole Indians of Oklahoma were offended by FSU's use of the tribe. It was later learned that the Oklahoma Seminoles never made any such statement, and the NCAA should have looked stupid yet again. Unfortunately, prominent Floridians beat them to it.

Former Republican Senate President Jim King (R-Jacksonville), who graduated from FSU in 1961 and is perhaps the biggest Nole fan in the Capitol, said that the Oklahoma Seminoles "gave up and went to the reservation" in the early 1800s. Of course, those Seminoles were run off their land and didn't simply leave on their own. King needs a refresher course in American history.

FSU Trustee Richard McFarlain said that the Seminoles from Oklahoma weren't even "real Seminoles." Apparently, McFarlain needs to join King in studying the history of the Seminole Indians.

Then FSU President T.K. Wetherell, former Democratic Speaker of the Florida House, issued the most devastating of the comments. Wetherell said that "maybe the Trail of Tears should have gone farther, I don't know."


Brief History Lesson

First, the Trail of Tears specifically referred to the removal of the Cherokee Indians from their homeland. The men, women, and children who were forced to follow the Trail of Tears endured great suffering, and it is believed that over 4,000 Cherokee Indians, or 25% of the entire tribe, died during this march.

The Seminole Indians of Florida, one of the "Five Civilized Tribes," were also forced to join the other tribes and move west, with most of the five tribes finding homes in Oklahoma and Kansas. In 1835, the Florida Seminoles refused to leave the Sunshine State, and their decision eventually led to the Second Seminole War. During this conflict, the Seminole leader Osceola employed guerilla-style tactics in battling the U.S. Army, by hiding in the Everglades and attacking the unsuspecting Americans. The Americans suffered numerous defeats at the hands of the Seminoles, but Osceola was eventually captured and died in prison. Most Seminoles were then forced to relocate to Oklahoma.


At the end of the day, Florida State University should be allowed to use the Seminoles as their official mascot. All interested parties agree, and the do-gooders from the NCAA should really just mind their own business and keep their political correctness out of Florida.

But the statements of King, McFarlain, and Wetherell must not be forgotten. While the statements clearly were not malicious, they were still racist statements that should not have been made. The people of Florida should not tolerate such conduct from our public officials.

The Seminole Caucus of the Florida Legislature (politicians who graduated from FSU) claims that they will be offering a resolution during the next session condemning the actions of the NCAA. I think they should. But only if they also condemn the hurtful comments of their own colleagues this past weekend.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would they say this? Regardless how they feel about Indians, they are politicians. They should know better. This is just stupid!

7:15:00 AM  
Blogger Kartik said...

Excellent post, James. Well done. I was going to do a similar piece on my blog but you beat me to it.

I firmly believe the NCAA has enough scandal such as gambling (ie. Ted DuPay, Adrian McPherson) and drug use on college teams to focus on that rather than on this nonsense. This having been said, T.K. Wetherell childish, and somewhat idiotic response paints Florida as a whole in avery negative light.

T.K. toned down his rhetoric some in a Sun Sports interview with Whit Watson and Paul Kennedy last week, but the damage had already been done. I have friends around the country who are pointing out that, "only in Florida" once again applies since none of the other schools affected (including Illinois who has as much if not more sports tradition as Florida State) made bombastic public statements following the NCAAs ruling.

11:47:00 AM  
Anonymous gator78 said...

I am a little amazed that these FSU grads are so stupid.

The argument made by the NCAA was that the use of American Indian mascots was offensive. So what did these razor-sharp alumni of FSU do? They made offensive comments about American Indians - essentially making the NCAA's argument for them.

I agree with the NCAA. These names are inappropriate for this day and age. And I think that King, McFarlain, and Wetherell made that point better than anyone.

12:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only in Florida, indeed! This guy is president of a major university and he said that? It is embarassing for him, for FSU and for Florida. It is also offensive and insulting to Native Americans generally, in its ignorance of history and insensitivity. He should apologize at a minimum, and it sounds as if someone should be calling for his resignation. What an idiot.

1:55:00 PM  
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