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Commentary

Mascots only offend the oversensitive

Universities and their governing organizations are among the few remaining bastions of social engineering. In building a better world, however, they usually forget the mortar of common sense.

A committee of the National Collegiate Athletics Association has voted to punish member schools that have mascots and nicknames that are &

hostile and abusive.&

Beginning next February, such schools would be prohibited from using such imagery in any postseason competition.

This would seem to be an unfortunate turn of events for the Boston Polytechnic Inebriated Irishmen or the North Wisconsin State Fighting Illegitimate Children. Instead, the Florida State Seminoles stand to be punished, even though the leadership of the eponymous Indian tribe has approved Florida State&

s use of the name.

While it&

s a good idea to pay attention to the sensitivities of other people, it&

s an equally bad idea to lose much sleep over anyone&

s over-sensitivities.

Satanists could be very insulted by the Duke University Blue Devils and the Arizona State Sun Devils. Do such schools really believe that Lucifer can be trivialized or that he would favor them in athletic competitions? Nonsense. It is well established that he favors only the Oakland Raiders.

The National Football League&

s Washington Redskins have also been derided for their &

offensive&

mascot. Offensive to whom? Some 90 percent of nearly 800 Native Americans surveyed say they are not offended by the mascot, if you are to believe an offensive publication such as Playboy magazine.

Let&

s look more closely at whether the Seminoles of Florida State or the Fighting Illini of the University of Illinois flunk the &

hostile and abusive&

test.

Are they pejorative terms for an ethnic group, like, say, &

towelhead&

? No. Do they use visually inflammatory symbols and images? No.

Do they potentially give fans a more positive image of a group of people than they might otherwise have had? Yes.

The piece that the NCAA is missing is that people are calling their own teams Seminoles &

they&

re not vilifying rival teams by putting such tribal nicknames on them.

Few aspects of daily life involve such vicarious living as does sports fandom. Few things generate in us a sense of corporate identity as rooting for our local college or pro team. We bleed for our teams, we stand taller when they win, we stand smaller when they lose. We wear their signs on our clothing and in our hearts.

In other words, if you choose a team identity to proudly carry as your own, it&

s inherently inoffensive &

in fact, it&

s the ultimate form of flattery.

Florida newspapers have reported that the NCAA committee had been operating on the false assumption that the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma was angered by Florida State&

s appropriation of their name.

The attorney general for the tribe is Jennifer McBee, who is also a member (how&

s that for a nonstereotypical name?). She told the Tampa Tribune that the tribe&

s general council voted 18-2 in July to defeat a resolution that condemned Native American nicknames and mascots. &

The Nation took the position it was not going to condemn use of Native American mascots nor condemn the Florida State Seminoles,&

she said.

She also told the Palm Beach Post that a number of tribe members attend that school: &

We are very proud of the members of the Seminole Nation who go to Florida State, and we didn&

t want this to have any derogatory effect on them.&

But what of those few people who are offended? Do they have natural rights that should impinge on the rights of others, as our U.S. Constitution sometimes demands?

They may, although it would be better for them &

and for all minorities such as myself &

to grow thicker skin and move on, unhindered by genuine or imaginary slights.

Good solutions rarely result from the social engineering of committee nabobs and academics who believe that women&

s sports will become as popular as men&

s sports if you just spend enough money on them, or that racism will go away by decree or by posting large banners.

The ultimate irony is that, if we ban all offensive tribal nicknames, within a few decades the same NCAA committee will demand that such nicknames be readopted.

Why? &

It would be a tribute to diversity,&

they will tell us with a straight face.