Offensive Sports Teams and Cereals, Oh My!

Pino at Tarheel Red instigated a fairly spirited discussion on his site yesterday about the extremes to which political correctness has pervaded the national dialogue, particularly in the context of naming sports teams.

I attended Stanford as an undergraduate and have always been rather embarrassed by the name of the school’s athletic teams (Cardinal — not the bird, the color) and its odd mascot (The Tree). Of course, the Stanford Cardinal used to be the Stanford Indians, until the university caved to political correctness in 1972.

The Tree, Source: Stanford University

The debate on the site reminded me just how far institutions have taken politically correct thoughtcrime in this country. For instance, one of James O’Keefe’s first stings was his demand that Rutgers ban the cereal Lucky Charms from the Rutger’s dining hall because it was offensive to people of Irish descent.

In any reasonable world, O’Keefe’s claim is laughable, yet Rutgers ultimately banned Lucky Charms cereal from the school cafeteria because it negatively stereotyped Irish people.

It is one thing to strike a balance between offending people’s feelings and maintaining free speech, but quite another to support the extent political correctness has run amok in this country.

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About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Conservative clean energy crusader, national security hawk, financial analyst, engineer, and former military officer.
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12 Responses to Offensive Sports Teams and Cereals, Oh My!

  1. nickgb says:

    1) As a fellow Pac-10 guy, I firmly agree that the Cardinal is a really dumb team name, and the tree is a dumb mascot.

    2) We’re talking about the NCAA, which is a private institution that still lets Liberty University and BYU play. They aren’t exactly pillars of liberal thought or political correctness.

    3) Is there anything you wouldn’t accept? What if a school used a full-on racial slur? What about the “redskins”? If you think it’s practicing thoughtcrime to require schools to avoid racially insensitive branding, then your definition is far beyond most people’s.

    I get that you guys don’t think it’s offensive, but we’re talking about predominantly white students pretending to be Native Americans for fun, without any sensitivity to the fact that European settlers practically eradicated Native Americans from North America. You say it honors the Sioux, but the Sioux disagree. Why not listen to them about it? If it really honors them, why do so many Sioux want it changed?

    • “As a fellow Pac-10 guy, I firmly agree that the Cardinal is a really dumb team name, and the tree is a dumb mascot.”

      I totally agree, but please don’t tell you went to Cal. 😉

      “Is there anything you wouldn’t accept? What if a school used a full-on racial slur? What about the “redskins”? If you think it’s practicing thoughtcrime to require schools to avoid racially insensitive branding, then your definition is far beyond most people’s.”

      Nope. For me it is about the primacy of freedom of speech. “Requiring” schools to avoid racially insensitive branding is a denial of this right as much as “requiring” schools to expel flag-burners is.

      If a school used a sufficiently offensive and bigotted team name, there are other ways for folks to express their outrage other than banning the perfectly legitimate right of a private organization to name itself.

      For instance, if a school team called itself the Racially Insensitive Military Baby Killer Veterans, I would be offended. I might respond by encouraging a boycott of their games. I might even refuse to donate money to my alma mater for naming the team in this way (I already refuse to donate to Stanford because of its banning of ROTC).

      “You say it honors the Sioux, but the Sioux disagree. Why not listen to them about it? If it really honors them, why do so many Sioux want it changed?”

      I am not arguing that it honors the Sioux. I am merely arguing that that was the intent of the name, not that the Sioux would agree with those who named the team.

      The Sioux may believe the name insensitive, but that does not trump the right of a private organization to name itself.

      Anyway. That’s my two cents.

    • nickgb says:

      Nope, I was a WSU Cougar. Older predatory women everywhere were offended by that.

      I agree 100% that it would be wrong for the government to ban those names as school mascots. That would be against the first amendment. But this is the NCAA, which is a private institution, saying that they don’t want to be associated with what they consider racially insensitive names. Freedom of speech doesn’t require the NCAA to do anything.

      I really doubt that the intent was to honor the Sioux any more than University of Washington wanted to honor the noble husky. The few sources I can find online indicate that the intent was to use it for the savage and warlike connotations, and for the fact that the Sioux conquered the bison (NDSU’s mascot). At best it’s neutral and at worst it’s offensive.

      There’s my 5 cents 😉

      • “But this is the NCAA, which is a private institution, saying that they don’t want to be associated with what they consider racially insensitive names. Freedom of speech doesn’t require the NCAA to do anything.”

        That’s a fair argument. I personally believe that the NCAA is taking it a bit too far, but that it has the right to ban what it construes as racially insensitive names as a private organization.

  2. Scott Erb says:

    Where I teach we’re the University of Maine at Farmington Beavers.

    It does make for some creative t-shirts on campus.

  3. Pingback: Offensive Sports Teams and Cereals, Oh My! | Γονείς σε Δράση

  4. pino says:

    In any reasonable world, O’Keefe’s claim is laughable, yet Rutgers ultimately banned Lucky Charms cereal from the school cafeteria because it negatively stereotyped Irish people.

    But the Irish weren’t oppressed or discriminated against! In fact, you can hardly tell an Irish guy from a normal white guy at all!

    See, the rule is simple, you can’t be offended until you’ve been REALLY offended!

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