FSU authorize court action in mascot ban if needed

Updated: August 10, 2005, 7:35 PM ET
Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State University trustees voted Wednesday to appeal its inclusion on a new list of schools that won't be permitted to use American Indian nicknames or logos in NCAA tournaments.

The school's Seminole mascot was one of 18 the NCAA said it finds "hostile" and "abusive."

Florida State trustees and school officials say that putting the Seminoles on the list doesn't make sense because the Seminole Tribe of Florida backs the school's use of the name and various images associated with it, such as the Seminole chief on horseback that serves as a team symbol.

The trustees also voted to authorize possible court action if the appeal doesn't work.

"We will not stand by and let this happen without a fight," Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Smith said at an emergency meeting called to give university officials authority to move forward in fighting the new ban.

NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said the organization would gladly hear the university's appeal.

"That's certainly the process we set up, and they are welcome to go through the appeal process, and we welcome their input," Williams said.

Florida State Athletic Director Dave Hart said the NCAA's inclusion of Florida State on its list ignored the school's relationship with the tribe, which was recently ratified in a resolution by the tribal council. The resolution said in part that the university had "permission" to use the tribe's name and symbols, including its Seminole head logo.

"The terms 'hostile' and 'abusive' ... appear to me to be devoid of logic, reason and a genuine evaluation of that relationship," Hart said.

Despite the Seminole Tribe of Florida's endorsement, many Native Americans reject the idea that the use of Native American symbols honors the culture.

Charlene Teters, a National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media vice president, argued the point in a message posted on the group's Web site.

"Using our names, likeness and religious symbols to excite the crowd does not feel like honor or respect, it is hurtful and confusing to our young people," wrote Teters, a member of the Spokane nation. "To reduce the victims of genocide to a mascot is unthinking, at least, and immoral at worst."

Florida State President T.K. Wetherell said university officials were also angry that they hadn't gotten to argue to the NCAA about the school's links to the tribe.

"To have a ruling of this nature come down, when [neither] we nor the tribe were asked to participate in it." Wetherell said. "That is offensive."

Trustees also expressed frustration that they didn't know how the NCAA came to determine that its use of the nickname met the definition of "hostile and abusive."

"I sure want to see that definition," Wetherell said.

There was strong support on the board for suing the NCAA over the decision if the appeals process doesn't work. The school has already approached a lawyer who has said he will take the case.

At least one other school on the list has some support from Indian tribes for which they're named.

Forrest Cuch, a member of the Ute tribe and executive director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs, said earlier this week that he hopes the NCAA interprets its new rule loosely because the University of Utah respectfully uses the Utes nickname.

Still, Cuch said he supported the "spirit and intent" of the new policy.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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