YES vs. NO
We honor the Seminole legend
Response of FSU President Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte
column on the political offensiveness of the World Series caught my eye.
It is curious that in a column about stereotyping, you were so quick to
stereotype Florida State University, our dealings with the Seminole Indians
and the academic record and physical conditioning of our athletes.
We are very proud of what this university has done in all these areas. Your
column notes that we at Florida State have consistently invited Seminole
leaders to our events. Yet, you dismiss that fact as if it were a casual
and inconsequential matter. It is not. We have been in constant contact
for years with the elected leadership of the Seminole organizations in Florida
In Native American matters, tribal sovereignty is important. The elected
chiefs of the two tribes have visited us each year and seen how we honor
the Seminole legend. We believe that people who truly want to regard the
feelings of the Seminoles ought to pay attention to the views of their elected
leaders. I am not aware of any complaint by either of these chiefs which
we have not addressed.
Chief James E. Billie, chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, endorses
Florida State's use of the Seminoles nickname. In a letter in the April
9, 1993, edition of the Seminole Tribune, Chief Billie wrote:
"... I do not have time to participate in such manufactured controversies
that serve no purpose whatsoever, than to promote the egos of those few
instigators who have assigned themselves the lofty job of telling us Seminoles
how we feel."
That opinion may not be univer-sal among the Seminoles, but it is clearly
shared by some of the tribe's young leaders as well. For example, at the
game against Georgia Tech, ABC interviewed Micki Diaz, Miss Seminole Nation
for 1995-96. The reporter asked her about the university's use of the Seminole
name. She said:
"Yes, in some aspects it is positive, but in some other people's eyes
it's not what they really want. But, in my opinion, I feel that it's promoting
our tribe and we're getting more recognized from just this school having
the Seminole name... (Some) feel that if we're getting things like (my)
crowning the homecoming court, we're behind it -- we're supporting it. It
doesn't bother a lot of people, but some it does, but you know there is
more positive than negative."
Your column acknowledges that we have always invited Seminoles, including
the chiefs, to our games, but the way you phrase it (that FSU "always
trots out some real Seminoles") is insulting to the university and
tribal leaders. We do not "trot out" anyone. We invite Seminoles,
and they often accept. If you are concerned with sensitivity, I would think
this would be considered a thoughtful step on our part.
The other slur in your column refers to our "alleged student
I doubt that you took the time to look at the data on our student athletes
before that flippant remark. I hope you will now take time to see what our
athletes have done.
You can look at their 71-percent graduation rate (for football players),
one of the best in the country. Or you can look at the 73-percent graduation
rate for all our intercollegiate sports.
You can review the record of athletes like Charlie Ward, or Derrick Brooks
and Ken Alexander, two of the most academically recognized athletes in the
country. Many FSU students are both fine athletes and good students. Your
pretense to sensitivity is belied by your carelessness with facts and your
eagerness to insult others. I am disappointed.
No race of people should be a mascot
Reprinted from the New York Times, Oct. 19, 1995 By George Vecsey
now we have the politically incorrect World Series. This series should be
about long-suffering Cleveland or long-suffering Atlanta finally winning
another World Series.
Instead, this so-called World Series -- another outdated concept -- is going
to offend millions of Americans whose roots go back before the Mayflower
and all the other ships.
The only way newcomers tend to notice American Indians is from the growth
of casinos on tribal lands. I don't list gambling among the top thousand
admirable human activities, but I won't demand American Indians stop running
gambling joints until Trump and Bally and municipalities do.
My real question is, what do we do about these demeaning nicknames for the
next week or 10 days? I cannot twist my sentences enough to refer to "the
team from Cleveland" and "the team from Atlanta" but I respect
the writers and even entire newspapers that will perform that enlightened
act of contortion.
In the raucous clubhouse Tuesday night, perhaps I should have asked thoughtful
guys like Kenny Lofton and Sandy Alomar Jr. and Dennis Martinez, all
of color," as Americans call anybody not totally Caucasian, what they
thought of going to the all-caricature World Series. But at a time like
that, who wants to be a poop?
Instead, I ask: How do we feel? We the fans. We the consumers. In Atlanta,
not only do they trot out the cartoon image of the Braves, but the fans
perform a chant with a chopping motion, which would be idiotic even if it
did not have racist implications.
When I see Atlanta fans performing the chop, I want to ask an old liberal
from the 1960s what she thinks of stereotypes of American Indians. But Jane
Fonda is married to Rich Ted, and she doesn't do protest anymore.
If you stop to think about it, it really is offensive to take a people whose
religion, whose love of the land, whose suffering, is intrinsically mixed
with race, and turn them into mascots. These conditions go back to earlier
times, like the 1948 World Series, when white people didn't have to think
about this stuff. But now we do.
Middle-of-the-road America (code phrase for white America) wakes up one
morning and discovers, gee, jurors may have been in-fluenced by their own
racial identity in the O.J. Simpson trial. How disturbing. Or Middle America
discovers, gee, nearly half a million black American men are convening in
Washington, and a man named Farrakhan, why, he sounds angry. How disturbing.
Then anybody who can afford a ticket goes to the ball park and performs
some stupid chop and wears a ball cap with a grinning American Indian on
it. The choppers don't get it.
Is it reasonable to ask these two ball clubs to change their names? Universities
like Stanford and St. John's actually did, and others have agonized over
it. But at Florida State University, Chief Seminole -- bare-chested warrior
on horseback, wielding a spear -- leads the football team onto the field.
That college always trots out some real Seminoles who say they are not offended
by the use of a warrior as a mascot for smash-mouth, roid-rage, beefed-up
Plus, the latter-day George Preston Marshall who currently owns the professional
football team in the American capital (named Jack Kent Cooke, what is it
with these three-name guys?), isn't about to give up the trappings and income
of the Washington Redskins.
There is a glorious heritage in these teams -- Sammy Baugh, Bobby Mitchell,
Henry Aaron, Mike Garcia. We won't see these nicknames changed in the short
run. But I suggest that fans refrain from buying any souvenir with those
degrading symbols. Some marketing executive just might get it.