Tag Archives: college football

The Use of Racial Mascots in Sport

By Kyle Huber

 

In the last few years mascots used in athletic programs have come under scrutiny due to their derogatory perceptions. The most common cases are mascots derived from various Native American symbols.

Mascot names include a variety of Native American language such as Indians, Braves, Redskins, Warriors, Chiefs and various tribal names.

Many teams utilize Native American rituals in their cheers and mascot outfits, such as the tomahawk chop, dances, war chants, drum beating, war-whooping and symbolic scalping.

These behaviors are deeply rooted in the Native American culture and many believe these behaviors illustrate the Indian culture as comical and cartoonish.

There are two different views on the use of these racial mascots.

Those who support the use of these mascots claim the images are meant to honor Native Americans, show the power and toughness of them and to enhance athletics by fostering such identities.

Those in opposition find them disrespectful and give false identities to the culture of the Native Americans, by portraying Indians as aggressive fighters and ignore the contemporary lifestyles many Native Americans partake.

The U.S. Commission of Civil Rights in 2001 condemned the use of Native American images and mascots by sports teams, stating such use of mascots, logos and nicknames were disrespectful and stereotypical of the Native American culture.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) also condemns them claiming, “Negative Indian stereotypes- especially those perpetuated by sports mascots- affect the reputation and self-image of every single Native person and foster ongoing discrimination against tribal citizens.”

Florida State University (FSU) has formed a relationship with the Seminole Tribe, who allow the school to use the Seminole imagery as a tribute to their tribe.

Florida State’s mascot is a depiction of Seminole Chief Osceola, portrayed by a student who is a tribe member of the Florida Seminoles, and the fans use the tomahawk chop cheer.

In 2005 the NCAA condemned college mascots who used Native American symbols by prohibiting, “colleges or universities with hostile or abusive mascots, nicknames or imagery from hosting any NCAA championship competitions,” also banning of displays of hostile references by mascots, cheerleaders, dance teams, band and team uniforms at NCAA championships.

So schools can keep their Native American mascots, but cannot not display them at any championship events.

In the past forty years, several universities have changed their school mascots and nicknames.

In 1973, Stanford changed their “Indian” imagery and changed to their school color, Cardinal. In 1975, Syracuse changed from “Saltine Warriors” to “Orangemen,” but changed again in 2004 to “Orange.”

In the 90’s Marquette’s changed from “Warriors” to “Golden Eagles” and Miami University, Ohio changed from “Redskins” to “Redhawks.”

Some of the more recent name changes include the University of Louisiana-Monroe change from “Indians” to “Warhawks” in 2006, and the University of North Dakota dropped their nickname the “Fighting Sioux” in 2012 and currently do not have a nickname.

In 2007, the University of Illinois Fighting Illini got rid of their dancing Indian mascot, Chief Illiniwek.

Northwestern State Demons still use Native American imagery within their program.

Since 1960, the winner of the Northwestern State – Stephen F. Austin football game wins the Chief Caddo trophy.

The trophy is a 7-foot-6 wood carving of Native American Chief Caddo, to honor the Native Americans who first settled in the two communities and provided safety for the early settlers.

There are fewer teams with Native American imageries in professional sports, including the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks, Kansas City Chiefs and most scrutinized, Washington Redskins

The Redskins have had their mascot name since 1933, when the club’s name was changed from the Boston Braves to the Boston Redskins.

In 1992, Suzan Harjo and six other Native Americans filed a petition to the Trial Trademark and Appeal Board (TTAB) to terminate the use of Redskins by the club.

The TTAB issued a cancellation of the mascot, but in 2003, a District Court reversed the decision, due to the TTAB’s lack of evidence of disparagement, allowing the Washington Redskins to keep their name.

The most recent outcry has been from President Obama, who said that if he were the owner of the Washington Redskins, he would consider changing the name. However, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has continuously stated that he will not change the name.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) says, “The Washington Redskins are the worst…There is nothing more disrespectful or demeaning than to call an Indian a redskin.”

In 2002, the Native American Journalists Association (NAJA) asked all news organizations to stop reporting on sports teams who used Native American imagery.

The Oregonian and the Minneapolis Star Tribune have both discontinued the use of nicknames that are deemed offensive in their publications.

Several football broadcasters and analysts have also stopped using the term “Redskins.”

Analysts Tony Dungy and Phil Simms have elected to simply call the team Washington. “I will personally try not to use Redskins and refer to them as Washington,” said Dungy.

Others such as Boomer Esiason, Jim Nantz and Troy Aikman, say they will continue to call them the Redskins as long as it is their team name. “That’s the name of their team and that’s what I am going to use,” said Esiason.

In 2002, Sports Illustrated took a poll of Native Americans on their beliefs on the use of Native American mascots in sports.

The magazine concluded that the majority of Native Americans were uninterested in the topic and in many instances supported the “honor” aspect of the use of mascots.

There are other ethnic groups that are used as mascots, including the Norte Dame Fighting Irish, Hofstra University Flying Dutchmen, Bethany College Swedes and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.

The use of “Cajuns” has been protested by African American activists over the years.

In 1997, Louis Farrakhan protested that the state funding of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette used, “African American and Creole tax dollar to promote a white culture.”

The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) has also had to change school imagery. Since 1936, Ole Miss has used the nickname of Rebels.

In 1983, Chancellor Porter L. Fortune prohibited the official use of the Confederate flag on campus, although the students and community continue to display the flag.

They also removed Colonel Reb, an imitation of a white plantation owner from the Civil War era, as the college’s mascot and in 2010 introduced a black bear named Rebel as his replacement.

With the public becoming more aware and sensitive to these racially derogatory athletic symbols, many organizations and universities have done away with them.

“Two-thirds or over 2,000 ‘Indian’ references in sports have been eliminated during the past 35 years,” says The National Congress of American Indians.

This is an unfortunate negative aspect that has overshadowed the many positive influences sports play in today’s society.

Hopefully we will soon be able to find a solution to this on-going debate and worry more about the team performances rather than their names.

A good (twelfth) man is hard to find

By Lindsay Rabalais

 

“The difference between LSU and Ohio State fans is that Ohio State stays for the entire game.”

I was recently discussing college football with a colleague from the Buckeye State when he made this bold – yet astute – observation.

It doesn’t matter whether the Tigers are up or down, whether they’re blowing out the opponent or up against the wall, whether they’re playing a powerhouse conference opponent or a “rent-a-win” team.

The fans will not stay in the stadium. And there is no common denominator to explain what the issue is.

The beginning of the third quarter has signaled a mass exodus throughout this season. LSU’s famed student section is always virtually deserted by the time Tiger Band plays the “Alma Mater” at the end of every game.

At the beginning of the third quarter on Saturday night, the LSU fans are going ...

At the beginning of the third quarter on Saturday night, the LSU fans are going …

Death Valley is consistently ranked as one of the best stadium atmospheres in college football. Paul “Bear” Bryant, legendary coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, once remarked that playing in Tiger Stadium is “like being inside a drum.”

In February 2014, ESPN.com crowned the LSU student section as one of its top five SEC student sections.

“The roar from the students after those three most intimidating notes … in college sports play from the Golden Band from Tigerland will send shivers down your spine,” wrote ESPN.com’s Edward Aschoff. “LSU students … create the SEC’s most electric environment when the lights come on and the sun goes down.”

LSU’s students are not only some of the country’s loudest, but frequently also the most colorful. The student section is notorious for concocting cheers with – to put it delicately – rather adult language.

So why is it that a fan base known across the country for being raucous and rowdy can’t stay for the entire football game?

photo 2 (1)

… going …

Could it be that folks become bored when LSU is clearly blowing its opponent out of the water?

Consider the Mississippi State game on Sept. 20. The game wound up as anything but a blowout, at least from LSU’s vantage point. The Bulldogs routed the Tigers for the overwhelming majority of the game, yes. Still, the Tigers could have conceivably won the game, thanks to a late rally in the fourth quarter.

Despite the thrilling drama unfolding on the field, the stands were largely empty.

LSU is famous (slash infamous) for its gripping fourth quarters. Fans who leave early risk missing historic plays, like the touchdown LSU scored after time ran out to defeat Tennessee in 2010 (in case you left that game early, the Volunteers were flagged for having an extra player on the field).

Maybe the problem is that this is a “rebuilding year,” and it’s tough to get fired up about a team that isn’t doing well.

First, let’s get something straight: LSU is having, by most schools’ standards, a fine season. Plenty of teams – and fan bases – would be thrilled to only have two losses at this point in the season, both to highly ranked SEC opponents.

Moreover, I give you the Sam Houston State, Louisiana-Monroe, New Mexico State and Kentucky games. The Tigers pulverized all their non-conference opponents at home, defeating Sam Houston State 56-0, Louisiana-Monroe 31-0 and New Mexico State 63-7. Finally, they dominated Kentucky on Saturday night 41-3.

If the problem is fans who don’t like to watch a losing team, there is no reason for them to disappear from the stadium when the Tigers are giving them exactly what they want – a shellacking of the opponent.

...gone before the end of the game.

…gone before the end of the game.

Finally, I submit to you that the LSU Tigers – for better or worse – help form Louisianans’ identity about themselves.

“There is no other state university more important to their state than LSU is to Louisiana,” political strategist and devout Tigers fan James Carville once said. I would wager that that statement includes the LSU football team.

Speaking as a lifelong Louisianan and LSU fan, when the Tigers are doing well, it just feels like order has been restored to the universe and everything is OK.

In Louisiana, LSU football is like the weather. Stuck in an elevator with that coworker whose name you can’t remember? Just bring up last week’s LSU game. Instant icebreaker.

Ours is a fan base that loves to talk about how steeped in tradition we are, how die-hard we are – we bleed purple and gold.

So let’s back up that talk.

I’m a realist. I get that sometimes your pregame activities catch up with you, and your headache is forcing you out of the stadium. I can certainly understand needing to get on the road to get back to Beaumont, Biloxi or Bunkie – especially if you have sleepy/cranky/antsy children to contend with.

But if it’s the third quarter and you have nowhere to be, consider staying put. Resist the peer pressure of those around you who are bolting from the stadium. Half of the stadium begins to file out during halftime, so you really aren’t beating traffic by leaving now.

Do it for yourself – by leaving early, you potentially cheat yourself out of some truly theatrical football from this “fourth-quarter team.” Stick around after the game and let Tiger Band’s a capella version of the “Alma Mater” give you goosebumps.

Do it for the team – the young men on the field truly feed off of the crowd’s energy. They showed up, and so should you.

Do it to show the nation what I know to be true: this is a passionate fan base that loves their team and loves football. And, yes, we are certainly that vocal fan base during pregame while we’re watching hype videos and singing along to “Calling Baton Rouge.”

But we are just as loud and just as present by the time the clock runs out at the end of the game – no matter the outcome.

Eric Randall talks football, coaching and personal success

You can probably say the game of football came naturally to someone like Eric Randall. The Louisiana native from Baton Rouge, who dominated as quarterback for Southern University from 1992 – 1995, led his team to two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and a Black College National Championship title in 1995.

But when Randall began playing sports at a young age, his dreams of athletic stardom did not include a helmet or marked fields of green.

”If I had a choice, I would’ve chosen basketball,” he said. “I had a love for basketball, but I wanted to be realistic with myself. I had more potential to go to college on scholarship as a football player. I was only 6-foot-3, so I decided football was the best thing, and it’s been great.”

Growing up, Randall found inspiration in watching NFL greats like former Washington Redskins player Doug Williams and hall of fame quarterback Joe Montana, but not just because of their exceptional playing abilities.

“As a quarterback, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Doug Williams. He’s the only African American who’s won the Super Bowl, and I’ve been able to talk to him as a life long friend.”

In eighth grade, Randall met Williams who mentored him during his time at Glen Oaks High School in Baton Rouge, and the two have been connected ever since.

Montana’s influence stems from Randall’s beliefs in education.

“He was not only a football player, but he was an academic guy, and that’s what I wanted to be, a student-athlete and not just an athlete.”

Now the newly appointed head football coach at Scotlandville High School in Baton Rouge, Randall is helping push that same message to student-athletes on his team.

Having coached previously for Southern Lab High School in Baton Rouge, Randall said he and his staff are “just trying to change some of these kids lives, and I think we’re doing that each and every single day.”

Along his side on Scotlandville’s coaching staff is Eric’s younger brother, Marcus, who proves the football gene runs in the Randall family.

After playing quarterback at LSU, Marcus found a spot in the NFL playing for the Tennessee Titans and Green Bay Packers.

Despite Marcus’ professional success, Eric said he never felt jealousy toward his brother. Although Eric dreamed of going to the NFL, he knew that Marcus might surpass him.

Before Eric’s father, Eric Sr., died when Eric was 16, he prepped Eric for the possible truth.

“My father made the comment when I was around 12 and Marcus was 4.” “He said, ‘Your brother’s going to be better than you’.” Eric, offended and confused by the remark, later asked his father why he was convinced his sibling would outperform him. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said his father explained. “The younger brother is supposed to outdo the older brother because you’re supposed to show him the tricks of the trade and he’s supposed to surpass you. If he does not, then you are a failure.”

Though his father’s comments were difficult to receive, Eric was not fueled by sibling rivalry. He said he loves his brother and always made sure he did the right things. And having a brother in the NFL isn’t exactly a burden.

“He made a lot of money in three quick years, and we visited a lot of new places riding on his coattails,” said Eric playfully.

Eric also acknowledges how the roles have reversed.

“People used to say, ‘That’s Eric Randall’s little brother,’ and now they say ‘That’s Marcus Randall’s big brother,’ and I love it because he’s a successful man.”

Marcus attributes much of his success to his older brother.

“When my dad passed, he (Eric) took that role on and not only pushed me athletically but academically. I looked up to him, and he was a role model to me. I watched him play, and he always taught me the game.”

Marcus added that he and Eric push each other to be the best they can be.

Eric may not have gone pro, but as a tribute to his prominent college success and continuing role in football, Southern University inducted Eric into their hall of fame in 2010, but it wasn’t the first time the opportunity had presented itself.

In 2002, Southern attempted to honor Eric with the induction, but he declined. “I turned it down initially because I knew my wife was pregnant with our son, and I wanted him to be able to see that,” he said. “Someone said I may not get that chance again, but thank God I did, and my son was there.”

Eric hopes his son, Eric III, will follow in his footsteps. “I care if he goes the athletic route because I have a passion for sports, but if he chooses not to play sports he will have to do something because everyone has been blessed with a talent. And I’ll put as much behind my kids as I need to put behind them to make sure they develop that talent.

If Eric hadn’t pursued sports himself, he said he probably would have fulfilled his dream of being an engineer, but if he weren’t coaching he’d be back in administration.

Before accepting the coaching position at Scotlandville, Eric served as assistant principal at Baton Rouge High School. Eric said what he wanted in life has come to fruition including being a principal. Eric’s mom, Linda Clark Randall, also worked in education and always pushed the concept of self-actualization, a psychological theory that promotes the realization of one’s full potential.

“I always knew I wanted to become a coach, I always knew I wanted to play football, and I always knew that self-actualization was the best form of becoming who you wanted to be.”

Eric believes that until you challenge yourself, or someone else challenges you, “you never know how far you can go.”