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The NCAA announced today that it is contemplating how to manage the issue of college teams that continue to use nicknames taken from reference to Indian tribes (Redmen, Utes, Savages, Braves, etc.).

Native American coalitions have asked the NCAA repeatedly to ask its member schools to drop these nicknames. They are seen by Native peoples as derogatory and offensive. Schools, of course, claim that adopting these nicknames is a tribute to the spirit of Native Americans.

Ah, nothing like a little cultural appropriation after you've practiced genocide to try to make up for your actions. I'm sure there are colleges all over Germany with nicknames like "Jews," "Hebrews," "Gypsies," and "Slavs." Those nicknames would certainly honour the spirit of the murdered souls, don't you think?

I'm not sure why this is so difficult for school administrators to get. After all, Stanford made the change years ago, and there doesn't seem to have been a complete collapse of fan loyalty now that it's the Cardinal.

When the NCAA dealt with schools that continue to use the Confederate flag in their school flags, its decision was that schools could continue to participate in their conferences, but various levels of NCAA championships could not take place at those schools. That's quite a financial hit if you are not able to host a regional tournament in a revenue sport.

Now, faced with what is sure to be a hot-button issue, the NCAA is getting ready (after four years of study) to issue recommendations about how to change school mascots and names.

I know that one of the arguments is that no one is asking schools to change their names if they are called the "Spartans" or "Trojans." But those universities do not sit in the middle of conquered or stolen or swindled land, do not sit next to reservations where those native peoples live in some of the worst states of poverty in the country, are not seen as affronts to the people they are meant to honour.

It is time for the NCAA to deal with this matter firmly. There should be penalties attached to Indian nicknames. If you know, for example, that the name of your team hurts the people who are supposedly meant to be honoured by it, why would you resist changing the name?

Originally posted to lorraine on Mon May 16, 2005 at 09:49 AM PDT.

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