The NCAA has many difficult issues to wrestle with in collegiate sportssteroid use, Title IX equality, TV contracts and revenue sharing, recruitment practices, high school students going directly to the NBA after receiving a Hummer from a sports agent, to name only a few. Why then do they choose to dive headfirst into the muck of the political correctness debate over team mascots?
Whatever will they do with the state names that come from Native American words or the actual names of Native American tribes? Can they ever play a tournament in the city of Indianapolis? The state of Illinois is named for the tribe occupying part of the state when the first French explorers arrived. The name Illini, which translates as men or people, was first used in 1874 by the University of Illinois student newspaper as a reference to the students and alumni from Illinoisand not to an Indian tribe. No descendents of the Illini tribe are offended by the mascot, simply because there are none. In the late 1600s, every man, woman and child was brutally exterminated in by their fellow Native Americans, the Iroquois, in a war over the trade in animal pelts.
The only effect on the University of Illinois of the NCAAs ban would be that they could not host any NCAA tournaments after Feb. 1. Their uniforms have been scrubbed clean of any references other than the word ILLINOIS. The Universitys Chief Illiniweka student who dresses up in traditional Indian clothing and dances at some sporting eventshasnt appeared away from home since 1989, when the mens basketball team made the Final Four.
In the United States, we possess the unique gift of a Bill of Rights. The very first right is the Freedom of Speech. This ensures that some citizens of our country will always be offended by the speech of some other citizens. It is the only way to ensure equality of expression. It is why Holocaust survivors in the town of Skokie were treated to an American Nazi Party march in their streets. If the speech of some is to be restricted please one group, we will all lose. History shows us that it is impossible to legislate good manners.
Scott Brener is a resident of Apple River, Ill.
From the August 17-23, 2005, issue