Tag Archives: NFL

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.

LSU In The NFL

By Jessica Busada

(Photo from Saturday Down South)Former Tigers Tyrann Mathieu, Odell Beckham Jr., Patrick Peterson, Jeremy Hill and Jarvis Landry

(Photo from Saturday Down South)
Former Tigers Tyrann Mathieu, Odell Beckham Jr., Patrick Peterson, Jeremy Hill and Jarvis Landry

At the beginning of this season LSU had 43 former players on NFL rosters. Many of them are making a name for themselves in their rookie season.

Around the NFL tweeted, “Dolphins drafted a keeper in Jarvis Landry. Has been a big difference maker for his offense.”

According to NFL.com, Jarvis Landry currently has 63 receptions, 573 yards and five touchdowns. He is 23rd in the NFL for total receptions.

Odell Beckham Jr. made an amazing catch that caught the attention of all sports fans and is currently the “Best of the Best” on “SportsCenter.” The internet went crazy immediately following the catch.

“That has to be the greatest catch I have ever seen,” NBC’s Chris Collinsworth tweeted.

“There is your play of the year, maybe of the decade, whatever. That is just impossible,” NBC’s Al Michaels said.

“It is spectacular, and it’s truly Odell Beckham. I saw him and Jarvis make catches like that in practice all the time,” LSU coach Les Miles said in response to Beckham’s catch.

On Dec. 7, Beckham had his sixth straight game with at least 90 receiving yards. No other player had an active streak of more than two games entering that Sunday.

Two former LSU players set a NFL record on Nov. 17. Jeremy Hill and Alfred Blue became the first rookies from the same college to rush for 150-plus yards on the same day in NFL history.

Former LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger set records in his rookie NFL season. With 345 passing yards he became the fifth former LSU football player to throw for 300-plus yards in a NFL game and the first since Matt Flynn in 2012.

Mettenberger became the fourth LSU quarterback to start on Monday Night Football in his game against the Steelers on Nov. 17, according to LSU’s football twitter page.

The rookies are not the only former Tigers catching the attention of fans with their success.

Former Tiger Brandon LaFell is in his fifth season of professional football. He is ranked 34th in the NFL for total receptions with 57. LaFell has 753 yards and seven touchdowns.

Bennie Logan is now in his second season of professional football and is ranked 18th out of all NFL defensive linemen.

It is clear that LSU produces football stars with major talent setting them up for success in the NFL.

 

 

Ray Rice: could the Saints forgive and forget?

By Lindsay Rabalais

Ray Rice could be moving to New Orleans after being reinstated to the NFL.

Rice, a running back who previously played for the Baltimore Ravens, was suspended from the NFL in September after TMZ released a video of him dragging his fiancée (now his wife) out of a casino elevator after he had knocked her unconscious.

On Nov. 28, Rice won his appeal in arbitration and was reinstated to the NFL.  He is currently a free agent, but there has been speculation about where he will play next – or if he will play again at all.

On Nov. 30, ESPN reported that the New Orleans Saints had inquired about signing Rice.

Head coach Sean Payton quickly shot down the rumor.  “I think I would know if we’re interested in signing any player.  But those are the ‘Sunday splash’ reports,” Payton told reporters.

Still, anything is possible.

If the franchise was considering signing Rice, they would deny knowing anything, according to Kristi Williams, former Vice President of Communications for the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry.  “If the Saints were looking at Rice, they would claim ignorance,” Williams said.

Payton’s response was not an outright denial of the Saints’ alleged interest in Rice, and another team has yet to sign him.  As of now, anything could happen.

If Rice were to don black and gold in the future, what kind of reaction could Tom Benson and his franchise expect?

When TMZ leaked the video of the incident in the elevator on Sept. 8, it started a national conversation about domestic violence.  The hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft dominated Twitter in the following days, with survivors of domestic violence sharing their stories.  Scores of editorials were written about Roger Goodell’s bungling of the situation.

The debacle made many football fans – especially female fans – question their enthusiasm for the game and for the NFL.

“As a woman, it makes me question how I can support the NFL,” said Claire Biggs, a Louisiana native and Saints fan.  “The NFL is a nonprofit organization.  How many other nonprofits would be able to function in this way?  … I definitely feel less inclined to watch or participate in anything the NFL does.”

The NFL attempted to rehabilitate its image by partnering with organizations that work to prevent domestic violence and serve victims, including the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.  In October, NFL players also began appearing in PSAs for No More, an organization that aims to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Still, this solution might have been too little, too late.

Williams said that the NFL should have had a crisis public relations plan in place for if a player was ever accused or convicted of a violent crime like domestic violence.  “Timing is everything with PR and crisis response,” Williams said.  “I equate it to bad clock management in a football game.”

It also does not help the NFL that football has a reputation – whether deserved or not – for promoting violence.

Statistically, the hours after the Super Bowl yield the highest nationwide numbers of reported domestic violence incidents in any given year, according to Amanda Tonkovich of the New Orleans Family Justice Center, an advocacy organization that works to prevent domestic violence.

Tonkovich also pointed to the aggressive nature of the game.

“Sports inherently has this masculine tendency.  We don’t cry, we don’t get hurt, we kill the other team.”

Still, Tonkovich believes in the power of the NFL as an agent for social change.

“If they take domestic violence seriously, it will send a message to youth and start a conversation,” Tonkovich said.  “Since this has been in the media, we’ve had more survivors come forward and share their stores, or talk with their families.”

Although Williams criticized the NFL’s response to the debacle, she doubts there would be serious public relations consequences for the Saints if they were to sign Rice.

She said that although there could initially be some backlash, most Saints fans would eventually accept him, given his talent on the field.

“Football is important to Louisiana, and we love to win,” Williams said.  “It’s a drug.”

Williams pointed out that sports fans also love a comeback.

“This whole state is about redemption, and it would be a perfect place for [Rice] and his family to land.”

However, some of the Saints’ fan base would almost certainly be unhappy with the decision.

“It’s too soon for me,” said Jennie Armstrong, a lifelong Saints fan.  “I’m not ready to give him a chance, and I don’t want him anywhere near my team.”

Biggs also said she would be angry if the Saints signed Rice.  Although she can see the value of giving someone who is truly remorseful a second chance, Biggs does not think Rice is sorry for the incident in the elevator.

“Unfortunately, I can’t be that optimistic where Rice is concerned, especially after seeing the video and reading the transcripts from his interviews,” Biggs said.  “Bringing on Rice would communicate a message that the Saints, as a team, value players over women who are abused.”

Tonkovich said the Saints could probably expect a mixed reaction from fans if they were to sign Rice.

“We live in a big football culture.  But I think there would be a lot of outrage, especially in the domestic violence advocacy world,” Tonkovich said.  “Especially if he was signed without going through any kind of batterer intervention program … Especially when New Orleans and Louisiana already have high rates of domestic violence.”

Williams suggested that Rice could actually be a powerful tool in the fight to end domestic violence, if he partnered with local advocacy groups.  She said Rice could become like Michael Vick, who plays quarterback for the New York Jets and was arrested in 2007 for operating a dog fighting ring.  Vick has since become an advocate for animal rights.

Tonkovich also said that it could be beneficial for domestic violence advocacy if the Saints signed Rice.  If he were to take serious steps toward rehabilitation, he could serve as an example to other domestic abuse perpetrators that they can change.

“We also don’t want to see abusers as, ‘this is how they’re always going to be’,” Tonkovich said.  “There needs to be some pathway to rehabilitation.  Because abusers will always be a part of our society, whether they are football players or not.”

Williams emphasized, however, that Louisianans would quickly turn on Rice if he were to abuse his wife – or anyone else –again.

Williams pointed to other athletes who have only been in hot water once, such as Tennessee Titans quarterback and former LSU player Zach Mettenberger, who plead guilty to two sexual battery charges in 2010 (the charges stemmed from the same incident).  Mettenberger has never been accused of any kind of sexual assault since then.  Because he is not a repeat offender, Williams said, most people have either forgotten about the charges or do not hold them against him.

Rice cannot make the same mistake twice, Williams stressed.  “There is a limit to how much people believe in your redemption.

“You only get one mulligan.”

 

Saints NFL Draft Preview

The New Orleans Saints will have the 15th pick in the first round of the NFL draft tomorrow night in New York City.

In many ways, the draft marks the beginning of the new regular season in the NFL, when teams replenish their rosters and focus on offseason preparations.

The Saints, buried under the bounty scandal a year ago, will start the 2013 NFL regular season free of the death grip of commissioner Roger Goodell.

So what are they to do?

Picking pretty much smack dab in the middle of the first round, the Saints, like nearly every team in the league, have a myriad of needs they hope to address via the draft.

One of the holes they’ll probably look to fill is on defense – at pretty much any position.

Luckily for the Saints, there appears to be a plethora of talented defensive players in the draft this year.

Double lucky for the Saints, they’ll look to have linebacker Jonathan Vilma for a whole season after he was suspended for a large portion of last year in relation to the bounty scandal.

Curtis Lofton also contributed a strong season last year with more than 100 total tackles from the linebacker spot.

Multiple draftniks have identified Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones as a potential target for the Saints during the first round on Thursday.

The pick would make sense. Jones would provide the Saints with a pass rushing threat the team lacked last year.

Cameron Jordan led the Saints with eight sacks last year and the aging Will Smith chipped in six.

Jones’s ability to get to the quarterback could prove useful for the Saints, should they choose to go that route.

The Saints may also opt to go after a defensive lineman in the first round.

Picking in the middle of the first round, they may not be able to get their hands on Utah behemoth Star Lotulelei or Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, but the Saints may have a shot at bringing LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo.

Mingo may see time at linebacker in the pros, but certainly would give the Saints athleticism and speed off the edge.

Here’s an interesting thought: Let’s say the Saints aren’t able to snag Jones, and Mingo’s been taken as well. What COULD be interesting is that the Saints might opt to fortify their secondary.  This would prove useful in a division that features big armed and capable passers like  Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Josh Freeman.

What if they go after someone like Florida safety Matt Elam?  He’s an active and tenacious player who’s projected to go in the later part of the first round.

The Saints would then have to wait until the third round to pick again.  They would still do well to get a pass rusher, and Sam Montgomery, the OTHER LSU defensive end, might still be available.

Montgomery at one point was projected as a first rounder along with Mingo.  His draft stock plummeted in the eyes of draft analysts in recent weeks after he admitted taking plays “off” at LSU and an underwhelming NFL Combine performance.

Still, there’s no denying Montgomery’s ability and if the Saints have the opportunity to snatch him in the third round, where many draft experts say he’ll go,, they’d be wise to do so.

If this were to happen, the Saints’ first two picks in 2013 would add a young and aggressive secondary player in Elam who can study under Roman Harper, and a first round talent in Montgomery, helping breath life in their derelict pass rush.

Of course, the one certainty about the NFL draft is that there will always be surprise and intrigue when the draft finally arrives.

The Saints may end up taking Jones’s Georgia teammate Alec Ogletree in the first round and South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger in the third round. You just never know.

One thing that can be assumed with relative confidence is that the Saints will look to focus on defense in this draft.