Bullying has become an issue, which teachers and coaches at all levels and parents with children of all ages have had to confront. Seemingly insignificant cases of verbal attacks and subtle intimidation have led to tragic consequences. Public service announcements and educational programs address bullying of children. The assumption is that this is not an issue facing adults or organizations. Everyone is encouraged to aid the victims and confront the tormenters. After hearing and seeing so much on this issue for so long, I can no longer stay silent.
To the National Collegiate Athletic Association, I must say this: stop picking on the University of North Dakota!
This harassment began several years ago. In 2007, the NCAA browbeat the university into an agreement to drop UND’s nickname, the Fighting Sioux, and its logo within four years, unless two specified Sioux tribes gave their consent to the usage of both. One tribe voiced its approval; the other expressed its opposition. Faced with banishments from postseason tournaments, the university caved to the pressure in 2011. Its teams have competed without an official nickname ever since. Those associated with UND are still grappling with a replacement acceptable to the self-appointed judges of propriety in Indianapolis.
The NCAA began its politically correct jihad in 2005. Arkansas State University, Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Louisiana-Monroe buckled under the threats to drop the historically erroneous nickname “Indians.” Saint John’s University, formerly called “Redmen,” and Marquette University, previously known as “Warriors,” chose other nicknames out of fear of being declared ineligible for postseason participation. Evidently, the NCAA could not be content with strong-arming some members to change their nicknames that lump all aboriginal peoples of the Americas into one non-descript classification.
Then, the NCAA targeted the University of North Dakota. The alleged justification lies in the supposed “hostile or abusive” nature of UND’s nickname and logo featuring a warrior wearing war paint and feathers. How does the use of the name of a specific tribe fit the description of "hostile or abusive"? If that is the standard, why are those hypocrites not harassing Central Michigan University (Chippewas), Florida State University (Seminoles), the University of Illinois (Fighting Illini), San Diego State University (Aztecs) or the University of Utah (Utes)?
If UND’s logo is causing this badgering, then an official from the NCAA needs to explain why Florida State’s logo is not also held to the same standard. Is that because those other programs compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the highest classification of football, and, thus, they have the resources and clout to resist the threats? Perhaps, the busybodies are just starting with the weaker targets before turning their muzzles in the direction of those FBS programs.
The NCAA’s bullying of UND reeks of selective enforcement of a subjective policy. Besides ignoring the use of other tribes’ names, the NCAA conveniently overlooks the names and logos of other members referring to other ethnic groups. Among these are Fighting Irish (University of Notre Dame), Ragin’ Cajuns (University of Louisiana-Lafayette), Spartans (Michigan State University and San Jose State University), Trojans (University of Southern California and Troy University) and Vandals (University of Idaho). Did the NCAA demand a referendum in Ireland, Acadiana, in southeastern Peloponnese, in northwestern Anatolia, or in any of the territories occupied by the Vandals at any point in history to seek approval from the inhabitants of those places for the use of those nicknames and logos?
Does the problem with UND’s nickname lie in the use of the adjective “Fighting"? If so, why does the University of Illinois have an exemption from persecution? It uses the name of a tribe, which is preceded by a word that connotes violence. Also, is the nickname of Notre Dame not perpetuating the negative stereotype of the Irish as drunkards eager to brawl at a moment’s notice? Theses two other examples are no less hostile or abusive than the term “Fighting Sioux”.
I admit that I have no stake in this fight. I am not, nor have I ever been a fan of, or a student at the University of North Dakota. Actually, I have never even stepped inside the borders of that state. I do not even watch games involving Football Championship Subdivision teams, which UND is a member. However, I do resent it when self-important ninnies try to micromanage the behaviors of others. This especially irritates me when the behavior has no bearing on those dictating how others must unquestioningly conform. I suggest that the NCAA tackle important problems facing college athletes and university sports programs instead of a trivial issue such as this one. I advise the universities with nicknames and logos referring to any ethnic group to ban together to resist this usurping of power by sanctimonious bureaucrats before theirs become the NCAA's next target.
— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.