Native Americans' Support of Racist College Team Doesn't Make It Right

footballHere's a first. A Native American tribe is fighting with the NCAA to allow the use of their name by a college athletic program at the University of North Dakota. It takes quite some chutzpah to try to take an entire nation back 40 years!

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Spirit Lake Nation have filed suit against the NCAA, claiming the North Dakota school has a right to call its athletic teams the Fighting Sioux, because the tribe's members have dubbed it an honor. They say the NCAA has no right to decide how they, the 1,004+ people in the suit, feel in denying the university's name request. Fair enough, but what about all the other Native Americans out there who would side with the NCAA?


I can respect that these people see the name as a badge of honor, but to use that as an excuse is like taking the women who have tried to own the word "b--ch" as proof that kids should now be allowed to let the b-word fly in elementary school. When something is offensive to a great many people, the fact that one or two can laugh it off doesn't mean the rest should have to.

The National Congress of American Indians has been fighting a war against racism in sports since the 1960s. They've successfully convinced NCAA member schools like Dartmouth, Syracuse, Stanford, Marquette, and a host of others to drop their usage of myriad names related to our nation's original settlers. They've gotten the NCAA to pass a rule that bans the use of Native American names and imagery by collegiate teams.

The NCAI did it with the support of a lot more American Indians and Alaska Natives than just the 1,004 members of the Standing Rock Tribe. In fact, the Standing Rock Tribe is just one sector of the Great Sioux Nation, something that spans not just North Dakota, but South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Montana, and parts of Canada. Using the name "Fighting Sioux" wouldn't simply be a reflection on these 1,000 people, but on countless others.

We've finally got real traction on keeping one attempt at racism out of our country. Is it really time to go backward?

Image via Tom Newby Photography/Flickr

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