February deadline set for affected schools to comply
By Gary T. Brown, The NCAA News
Reprinted with permission of the NCAA
Presidents and chancellors on the NCAA Executive Committee approved a series of recommendations in the spirit of the Association's core principles on diversity and inclusion that would limit the use of Native American mascots, nicknames and imagery at future NCAA championships.
The decision reached during the Executive Committee's August 4 meeting in Indianapolis is part of a new policy to prohibit NCAA colleges and universities from displaying hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery at any of the 88 NCAA championships. It may affect as many as 19 NCAA institutions whose recent self-studies on the Native American mascot issue did not satisfy concerns that some people could consider the use of the mascot or imagery hostile or abusive.
Under the new guidelines, if the identified schools do not make changes by February 1, 2006, they will not be able to host future NCAA championships competition, unless they already have been selected as a predetermined site. In those cases, schools still would have to take reasonable steps to cover up the references to Native Americans before the competition begins.
For championships in general, the new policy means that institutions displaying or promoting hostile or abusive references on their mascots, cheerleaders, dance teams and band uniforms or paraphernalia would be prohibited from wearing the material during competition. Related merchandise also could not be sold at the championship site. Those provisions become effective August 1, 2008.
None of the measures applies to regular-season or conference competition.
The 19 schools are (with nicknames) Alcorn State University (Braves); Arkansas State University (Indians); Bradley University (Braves); Central Michigan University (Chippewas); Carthage College (Redmen); Catawba College (Indians); Chowan College (Braves); Florida State University (Seminoles); the University of Illinois, Champaign (Illini); Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Indians); the University of Louisiana at Monroe (Indians); McMurry University (Indians); Midwestern State University (Indians); Mississippi College (Choctaws); Newberry College (Indians); the University of North Dakota (Fighting Sioux); Southeastern Oklahoma State University (Savages); and the University of Utah (Utes). The College of William and Mary (Tribe) has been given an extension to complete its self-study on the mascot issue.
Executive Committee Chair Walter Harrison noted that institutions affected by the new policy may seek further review of the matter through the NCAA governance structure. Individual institutions may appeal their inclusion on the list of schools whose mascots are considered hostile or abusive. The Executive Committee would serve as the appellate body in that case. Also, one or more institutions may seek to amend the overall policy by submitting a request through the applicable presidential governing body. The February 1 effective date allows for both processes.
The membership-driven action to apply a diversity and inclusion policy at NCAA championships is not unprecedented. In 2001, the Executive Committee adopted similar provisions regarding schools in states whose flags incorporate the Confederate battle flag. Under those policies, however, schools that earn the right to host championship competition (for example, a Division I baseball or softball regional) may do so. The Native American mascot policy is stricter in that regard, since the Executive Committee believes an institution has more control over its nickname than its home state flag.
In both the flag and mascot issues, advocates praised the NCAA membership for taking a position on a social matter, while critics thought the decisions should be left to the campuses. Ultimately, both policies were adopted through membership channels.
"The NCAA is a presidential-led organization," said NCAA President Myles Brand. "And presidents have become more engaged in these issues."
Harrison, president at the University of Hartford, said that as a membership association, the presidents and chancellors responsible for making the decisions reached appropriate conclusions in both cases. He called the mascot policy criteria in particular tough -- but reasonable, since it applies only to competition within the NCAA's jurisdiction.
"Colleges and universities may adopt any mascot that they wish, as that is an institutional matter," he said. "But as a national association, we believe that mascots, nicknames or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin should not be visible at the championship events that we administer."
The Executive Committee adopted the standard of "hostile and abusive" in part from case law. Members cited such language as being applied in civil cases in which decisions were reached on the basis of what "a reasonable person" would find to be hostile or abusive. The "hostile and abusive" standard also is stronger than simply "offensive," which courts have ruled is protected under the freedom of expression.
Harrison reiterated that the Executive Committee did not reach its decision hastily. The action concludes almost four years of study and debate. The mascot issue has been under review since the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent bipartisan agency of the federal executive branch, issued a statement in 2001 encouraging non-Indian schools, colleges and universities to stop using Native American mascots, nicknames and imagery.
NCAA member institutions also have pushed the Association for change. The NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee (MOIC) has been the body within the governance structure to provide the most guidance. The MOIC met most recently in June and developed the framework for the recommendations the Executive Committee approved. Those policies also were reviewed by the Executive Committee's subcommittee on gender and diversity issues, which met August 3. The subcommittee chair, Clinton Bristow Jr., is president at Alcorn State, one of the schools identified by the study as not meeting standards.
Institutions have had fair warning that action may be imminent. Thirty-three NCAA schools that use Native American mascots, nicknames or imagery were asked to conduct a self-study last year to clarify their position on the continued use of American Indian mascots based on NCAA constitutional amendments that establish the Association's commitment to the values of diversity, respect and nondiscrimination. Institutions also were asked to provide information on their educational and outreach initiatives related to Native Americans.
Many documented such efforts to Native American communities in their areas, but few were able to demonstrate that that their use of Native American mascots, nicknames or imagery was a direct result of Native Americans attending or associating with their institutions. Only the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, which was founded as a school for Native Americans and whose current enrollment is 21 percent Native American, was able to justify that its use of "Braves" as a nickname was appropriate.
Fourteen of the 33 schools have either removed all references to Native American culture or were deemed to have never had references to Native American culture as part of their athletics programs. In addition to North Carolina-Pembroke, those schools are California State University, Stanislaus; East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania; Eastern Connecticut State University; the University of Hawaii, Manoa; Husson College; Lycoming College; Merrimack College; San Diego State University; Southeast Missouri State University; Stonehill College; the State University of West Georgia; Wisconsin Lutheran College; and Winona State University.
Many of those institutions use the nickname "Warriors" without referring to Native American culture.
The Executive Committee charged selected NCAA staff with legal backgrounds with deciding which schools met the compliance standard. The MOIC and the Executive Committee subsequently reviewed and approved those decisions.
"Several institutions have made changes that adhere to the core values of the NCAA Constitution pertaining to cultural diversity, ethical sportsmanship and nondiscrimination," said NCAA President Brand. "We applaud that, and we will continue to monitor those institutions and others."
The Executive Committee also suggested a number of best practices, including a call for institutions to review their publications and written materials for hostile and abusive references and remove those depictions. That is the current policy of the NCAA national office.
Finally, member institutions are encouraged to educate their internal and external constituents on the understanding and awareness of the negative impact of hostile or abusive symbols, names and imagery, and to create a greater level of knowledge of Native American culture through outreach efforts and other communication means.
© - The University of Louisiana at Monroe • 700 University Avenue • Monroe, LA 71209 • (318) 342-1000