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The NCAA has agreed to allow the Florida State Seminoles to compete in post-season tournaments, despite its August 5 ruling that teams with "hostile" and "abusive" Native American names, mascots, and imagery will be banned from championship competition. The decision comes in the wake of statewide uproar in Florida, where the Seminole tribe has long given its blessing to FSU's teams, even helping design the Chief Osceola mascot.
Yesterday, the NCAA removed FSU from its list of eighteen schools whose teams will be banned from tournament play if they retain their names and mascots, and then issued a loaded statement essentially suggesting that the NCAA knows better than the Seminole tribe what is and is not offensive to it: "The N.C.A.A. executive committee continues to believe the stereotyping of Native Americans is wrong," said senior vice president for governance and membership Bernard Franklin. "However, in its review of the particular circumstances regarding Florida State, the staff review committee noted the unique relationship between the university and the Seminole Tribe of Florida as a significant factor." Franklin went on to add that "The N.C.A.A. recognizes the many different points of view on this matter, particularly within the Native American community. ... The decision of a namesake sovereign tribe, regarding when and how its name and imagery can be used, must be respected even when others may not agree." There is a lot that is strange about this comment, but perhaps the strangest thing is the suggestion that only Native American tribes can decide who gets to use their name or represent them. Unless a tribe has trademarked itself, this is a nonsensical statement, one made all the more so by the fact that the NCAA has already designated itself as an organization empowered to adjudicate which college sports teams can and cannot use tribal imagery.
FSU won its appeal with the NCAA because it had the backing of both Florida and Oklahoma Seminoles. But the NCAA has warned that simply having tribal support is not enough to guarantee a successful appeal, since it is "the NCAA's responsibility to ensure an atmosphere of respect and sensitivity for all who attend and participate in our championships."
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