Letter: Misplaced priorities

(U-WIRE) LINCOLN, Neb. – New NCAA policies that aim to end discrimination of American Indians through sports mascots are about to take effect.

Starting Feb. 1, schools with mascots considered offensive won’t be allowed to host NCAA postseason games or display their mascots in any form during postseason play.

Those schools — 15 in all — include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose mascot is the Fighting Illini, and the University of North Dakota, home of the Fighting Sioux.

Three other schools were initially cited but removed from the list after they documented overwhelming support for their mascots from local tribes: Florida State (Seminoles), Utah (Utes) and Central Michigan (Chippewas).

Human rights groups and members of the U.S. academic community, however, want to see that restriction taken a step further.

They’ve sent letters to Division I schools, asking them to not participate in athletic events against those schools with offensive mascots.

No schools in the Big 12 use American Indian imagery for their mascots, so conference play wouldn’t be affected.

But what about postseason play? What if NU found itself in a bowl-game matchup against, say, Central Michigan?

What chance is there that NU officials would disappoint and infuriate an entire Husker Nation and decline the game?

Would NU really make that leap for its tiny American Indian community?

It seems unlikely. This issue, too, seems a difficult one for the NCAA to tackle.

Perhaps it’s better left to respective states. Take Florida State: In 1978, the university abandoned the “Sammy Seminole” mascot, then sought input from the Seminole Tribe of Florida as they re-created their mascot and game-day rituals.

Today, the university and the tribe enjoy a respectful relationship, people from both sides told the Washington Post in a Sunday story.

We’re not saying by any means this is an unimportant issue that the NCAA should abandon – it is – and for some American Indians, offensive mascots are just one more way in which their universities and entire communities marginalize them.

But the NCAA could throw itself behind other causes, too. Domestic violence among top athletes, for example, has long been a problem at many schools, including NU.

There has to be money somewhere in the NCAA’s massive budget to support counseling programs for both abusers and their victims.

If the NCAA claims otherwise, it has big problems on its hands. It must not focus on one problem and ignore others. That would be true discrimination.

Staff Editorial

Daily Nebraskan (U. Nebraska)