Now this story of Political Correctness will make your head spin. Apparently the University of North Dakota basketball team is being told by the NCAA that either they change their name, the Fighting Sioux, or they will be kicked out of the NCAA. Why? Because it might hurt the feelings of someone, somewhere. But the UND President it fighting back starting with this letter to the NCAA. And what a letter it is:
June 7, 2006
National Collegiate Athletic Association
I have chosen to communicate with you in this way for several reasons. Since you have had what you say is the "final" word on the issue of our nickname and logo, we must now consider legal action. I want you, as well as University of North Dakota stakeholders and the general public, to know why we must. The NCAA leaves us no recourse but to consider litigation to make the point that the policy you have instituted is illegitimate and that it has been applied to the University of North Dakota in an unfair, arbitrary, capricious, fundamentally irrational, and harmful manner.
Despite some of the hard-edged language I have had to use in this letter, I bear no animosity toward any of the NCAA committee members or staff, who, I am certain, are all good people. I suspect that a few people were the driving force and that the issue took on an organizational life of its own. I'm sure that those doing the pushing were motivated by personal conviction. What ever the origin, what emerged was, unfortunately, a kind of organizational self-righteousness. Self-righteousness has wrecked havoc in the guise of good throughout history. Once the self-righteous come to believe in the absolute correctness political or otherwise of their point of view, they proceed with a zeal that leaves no room for reasonable doubt, thoughtful consideration, or fairness.
I hope you understand that as the chief executive officer of the University of North Dakota, I am as I have been doing my best to implement a State Board of Higher Education policy governing our nickname and logo. I must also admit to a personal dislike and aversion to the corruption of logic in the convoluted process you used in arriving at your decisions. Also, because I am a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, spent time at the University of Illinois in a post-doctoral program, and serve as president of UND, I know directly what great institutions these are. They all deserve better from the NCAA than to be charged with decades of being hostile and abusive with a presumption of guilt. I wonder if you really have any idea how serious these charges are. I admit that because of my sense of justice and fairness, I would have taken personal issue with what you have done here in any case.
The policy is illegitimate
[…]To begin with, you asserted that any use of American Indian images or nicknames was hostile and abusive. Later you changed this to hostile or abusive as if this were meaningful in some way. Some of your initial rhetoric actually encompassed nicknames derived from any race or ethnic group. Many of us heard Myles Brand in a radio interview say that "Fighting Irish" was not a problem nickname because (his words) it was really about leprechauns and not real people. Really?
We explained that we have a beautiful logo designed by a respected American Indian artist and that we use the nickname with consummate respect expecting and getting respect for the Sioux culture from our fans. We pointed out that we do not do tomahawk chops, we do not have white guys painted up like Indians, and our fans do not do Indian chants.
In an amazing display of organizational arrogance, Walter Harrison, in answer to the following direct question at a recent news conference:
"Are there incidents the NCAA has recorded where it (UND) appears to be hostile and abusive?" he said, obviously ducking the question entirely:
"Today's decision was to review whether the staff's original decision was the right one. We tried to confine ourselves to that. We believe the use of the Fighting Sioux and the mascots [he is apparently still unaware that we do not have one] and imagery [ours was designed by an American Indian] that represents (sic) are hostile and abusive and we don't believe the University has made a case to the contrary." [emphasis added]
Evidence? What evidence? Courts tend to dismiss hearsay and to demand and rely on real evidence.
We invited you to come and see for yourself and you refused.
We now have your letter of May 15 in which you make reference to "substantial evidence," but nowhere in the letter is this evidence described. In lieu of evidence, you simply cite "staff review," apparently of hearsay testimony by various local and national groups. Most of these simply assert that they are opposed to any use of nicknames anywhere by anybody at any time.
[…]American Indian education is a $12 million enterprise at UND. Much of the total is provided by the tribes themselves, by the students and their families, and by the federal government. None of this would happen, obviously, if the environment here were in any way hostile and abusive. There is also a substantial University component as well. The University annually provides about $400,000, mostly in the form of waivers of tuition specifically for underrepresented groups. Nearly all of this goes to American Indians.
We have more than 30 separate programs in support of American Indian education. Most of these are administered by a staff of seven American Indians. Most of the programs are based in a new American Indian Center funded by the University and by generous donors. These programs include a thirty-year-old Indians-Into-Medicine program which has educated about one-fifth of all (enrolled) American Indian physicians in the United States. Your action has, unfortunately, put all of this under a cloud of "hostile and abusive." We must find some way to set the record straight.
In the subsequent handling of our appeal you indicated that the burden is actually on us. We must prove that the athletic program and our general campus environment are not hostile and abusive.
Although we thought it strange perverse actually to assume guilt until innocence was proven, or at least objectively indicated, we offered the facts that (1) our nearest Sioux Tribe gave us written permission (which still stands despite repeated attempts by the NCAA staff itself and other nickname opponents to ask the Tribal Council to rescind its resolution) to use the name; (2) we have overfour hundred American Indian students going to school here, many of whom are just fine with the nickname and none of whom would be here if the environment were really hostile and abusive; (3) it was reported to you, directly by the Chair of the Tribal Council Judicial Committee that, at the only other Sioux Reservation based in North Dakota, a district-by-district referendum resulted in nearly unanimous support for UND's use of the Sioux nickname; and, (4) the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education spent a week here investigating earlier "hostile environment" charges made by our local nickname opposition group and made no such finding as clear indications that our handling of the nickname is in no way hostile and abusive.
Fighting Sioux and our logo are registered trademarks. The Federal Trademark Act of 1946 prohibits the registration of any mark that:
Consists of or comprises immoral, deceptive, or scandalous matter, or matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols or bring them into contempt or dispute.
The fact that our mark is registered would seem to rule out "hostility and abuse," as well.
[…]As it is, you have put us in the position of being unable to change or modify our nickname because to do so would be an admission of something we know to be false.
There may be no way out of this dilemma except litigation.
We are concerned that even if we were to cave in and change our name, you might subsequently hold us hostage until the great State of North Dakota changes all of its state highway signs which now depict a silhouette of an Indian. You might, some say, insist that the Indian logos on the doors of all of our (marked) Highway Patrol cars be removed.
How far does the NCAA think its jurisdiction goes? Does it extend into history? Do you really expect us to airbrush all of the references to Sioux off the jerseys of our many national championship teams on the many photographs and championship banners lining the walls of our sports venues?
And get this: even if we were to stop using the nickname we have used with pride for nearly eighty years, and decided to forgo any nickname since they may all be at some future risk and simply be known as the University of North Dakota and used the University's seal or even the State Seal, we would still apparently be in violation of your policy. "Dakota" is what some of the Sioux actually call themselves. Our University Seal and the State Seal have images of American Indians on them.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that through all of this except for stirring things up you have accomplished nothing. Your stand against Indian nicknames and logos a stand that seem to start out against all references to races and national origin fizzled before it started when you left out Irish, Celtics, Vandals, and a host of other names. Then, for highly convoluted, hypocritical, and in some instances mysterious reasons, you exempted the Aztecs and other American Indian nicknames at the outset and, following that, you exempted the use of Chippewa, the Utes, the Choctaws, the Catawbas, and the Seminoles, leaving the NCAA position on even American Indian nicknames about as solid as room-temperature Jell-O. All of this was, and remains, highly arbitrary and capricious.
[…]All of this notwithstanding, sometimes even at some cost and some risk it is best to stand up to injustice.
Charles E Kupchella, Ph.D.
Now that is what I call fighting back. No flowery words to make everyone feel better. Just telling it like it is. This move by the NCAA is PC at its worst.