United Methodist agency applauds decision to drop athletic name
Oct. 31, 2006
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Commission
on Religion and Race praised McMurry University's decision to
discontinue use of its athletic team name "the Indians."
The university's board of trustees made the
decision Oct. 13 in compliance with the National Collegiate Athletic
Association's prohibition against the use of such names and related
mascots by teams in post-season tournament competition. The Abilene,
Texas, university is one of 123 higher education institutions related to
the United Methodist Church.
"The usage of the name 'Indians' for this purpose
is offensive to many Native Americans because it reduces them to mere
stereotypical symbols with little or no regard for the sanctity and
complexity of native peoples' identity and character," said Suanne
Ware-Diaz, staff representative for Native American constituency
concerns for the commission.
"Even worse, such team names have often led to
disrespectful and degrading practices by non-native people, such as
donning Native American attire and displaying sacred Native symbols and
articles inappropriately," she said.
No new mascot chosen
The school decided not to choose another mascot name but will simply
refer to its teams in a more general way using the school's name, such
as the McMurry Men's Basketball team, for example.
"The board and I believe
that it is time to move on. It is time to focus our resources on
creating more opportunities for our students," said John Russell,
McMurry's president. McMurry had appealed to keep its Indian mascot. In
an interview with the Associated Press, Russell said McMurry's nickname
was a symbol of deep respect for the American Indian culture.
"McMurry's values are
reflected less by what our athletic teams are called than by who we are
and what we do. McMurry University has been committed to honoring Native
Americans since its founding in 1923. Regardless of the NCAA position
on our team names, we will continue to meet our commitment to honor the
Native American and to the history and culture that has always defined
McMurry," he said in a statement on the university's Web site.
The NCAA policy was announced in August 2005 and is
set to take effect Feb. 1. McMurry was one of 18 schools listed as
using Native American images deemed "hostile or abusive." Failure to
comply with the policy will prevent the schools from hosting postseason
events or displaying the symbols during championship competition.
Delegates to the 2004 United Methodist General
Conference, the denomination's top lawmaking body, rejected the use of
Native American names and symbols for sport teams, calling the practice
dehumanizing and a blatant expression of racism.
The General Conference called upon all churchwide
agencies, annual conferences and other United Methodist-related entities
to hold meetings and events only in cities that do not sponsor sport
teams using Native American names and symbols. After choosing an event
location, the organization should state the denomination's position
regarding Native American names and symbols, the conference said.
General Conference action
The 2012 United Methodist General Conference which was originally set to
be held in Richmond, Va., was moved to Tampa, Fla., because Richmond is
home to the pro baseball team the Braves.
are grateful and encouraged that the NCAA's prohibition has led a
number of schools to change or forgo use of offensive Native American
names, symbols and mascots for their athletic teams," Ware-Diaz said.
such as the one to move the General Conference site "assures native
people that their appeals for the common respect accorded to other
racial/ethnic groups are finally being heard and heeded," she said.
are more legitimate ways to honor the dignity, culture and sacred
traditions of native people — for example, by increasing the presence of
native students on campus and adding Native American studies to the
university curriculum, or inviting native elders and leaders to come
lecture and share their gifts, ideas and concerns with students and
faculty," Ware-Diaz said.
McMurry is the only
United Methodist-related school on the list of those affected by the
NCAA's decision. Some of the schools on the list have sued to keep
their mascots and others are in the process of fighting to retain their
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.