FORT WORTH, Texas – For those of us still struggling to understand the Clinton Era definition of what “is” is, Friday brought more confusion.

Please, NCAA executive committee, define “hostile or abusive.”

The NCAA’s highest ruling body on Friday ruled that schools with mascots, nicknames or imagery deemed hostile or abusive to racial/ethnic/nationality groups must ditch those mascots, nicknames and imagery when participating at any of the 88 NCAA-sponsored championships (bowl games not included . . . for now).

Outside of NCAA-run championship events, “What each institution decides to do is really its own business,” said executive committee chair Walter Harrison, president of Hartford University.

(Hartford’s nickname is the Hawks. Apparently, right-wing Republicans don’t consider that hostile and abusive.)

Illinois Fighting Illini? You play in the NCAA Tournament, you’re the Illinois Generics. Utah Utes? You’re the Utah Youths. Florida State Seminoles? The Florida State Legislators, maybe?

Think that’s absurd? Keep reading.

San Diego State gets to keep Aztecs because Aztecs are not Native Americans. Apparently, the NCAA’s moral indignation stops at the U.S. border.

Idaho Vandals. Hmmm, that would seem to be hostile, if not abusive, promoting, at the least, graffiti and window breaking.

Kansas Jayhawks. A jayhawker was an abolitionist guerrilla of Missouri and Kansas in Civil War days; also, a robber or raider, a plunderer.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Well, of course all Irishmen fight.

What was that definition again? Hostile or abusive to racial/ethnic/nationality groups.

The new rule regarding teams, mascots and championship events takes effect in February. Also, schools with hostile and offensive nicknames who host NCAA championship events “must take reasonable steps to cover up those references.”

Texas Tech men’s basketball coach Bob Knight, a noted critic of the NCAA and of Myles Brand, its Dudley Do-Right president, must be laughing his sweater off.

Yeah, just cover up those references, folks. That’ll make people forget all about ’em.

Native Americans have been abused, neglected and marginalized for decades. Their plight is not humorous. And it shouldn’t be politicized with grandstanding decisions that are all sizzle and no steak.

The NCAA’s stand straddled the fence. If mascots, nicknames or imagery deemed hostile or abusive to racial/ethnic/nationality groups don’t belong in NCAA championship events, why do they belong in college sports at all?

“They’re dodging the issue, basically,” said Dr. Joely De La Torre, president of Naqmayam Communications, a Native American public relations agency and community activist. “These images and symbols have historically plagued our community.

“If the NCAA can’t see that, I’m really concerned about the direction our society is going.”

Well, heck, the NCAA can’t figure out how to crown a Division I-A football champion on the field. Asking it to fix societal ills makes as much sense as sequins at a funeral.

Florida State has the support of Florida’s Seminole tribes, but the Seminole tribes in Oklahoma object to FSU’s use of the nickname. School president T.K. Wetherell basically told the NCAA and its new rule to take a long walk off a short pier. Wetherell threatens legal action over what he called an “outrageous and insulting” decision.

The University of Utah has permission from the Unitah tribe to use Utes as its nickname.

“A non-Indian organization should not be the one to make the decision. This should come from tribal leaders,” Irene Cuch, a tribal leader at the Unitah and Ouray Indian Reservation, told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Of the 18 schools on the Nickname Hit List, 12 use the nicknames Indians (seven), Braves (three), Redmen (one) or Savages (one). All fit in the NCAA’s hostile or abusive, even if those generic names mean there isn’t a specific tribe of Native Americans to insult.

The NCAA executive committee is a collection of school presidents who often speak with forked tongues and make decisions as if they had trouble earning their GEDs.

If they think the nickname ban is so significant, maybe the NCAA headquarters should be moved out of Indianapolis.


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