Tuesday, August 23, 2005

UI blasts NCAA for 'inflammatory rhetoric'

UI blasts NCAA for 'inflammatory rhetoric'

August 16, 2005


CHAMPAIGN -- The University of Illinois is criticizing the NCAA for "inflammatory rhetoric" in its recent decision to sanction universities that use American Indian nicknames and mascots for their sports teams.

The NCAA's use of the words "hostile" and "abusive" to characterize some of those, including Illinois' Illini and Chief Illiniwek, was particularly disappointing, UI board chairman Lawrence C. Eppley wrote in a letter Monday to USA Today.

Eppley's letter, which the university has not been told will be published, is a response to an essay by NCAA President Myles Brand published in the newspaper last week.

In the essay, Brand called the NCAA's decision a "teachable moment" aimed at initiating a national discussion about how American Indians have been characterized.

"The Executive Committee's uninformed use of inflammatory rhetoric does not create a 'teachable moment,"' Eppley wrote. "Instead, it retards meaningful debate on an important issue, especially in the communities of the 18 institutions 'branded' by the NCAA as politically incorrect."

The NCAA's executive committee decided Aug. 5 to ban the use of American Indian mascots or nicknames by sports teams during its postseason tournaments. It also plans to bar teams that use them from hosting postseason events.

"Everyone has the opportunity to express their opinion and Mr. Eppley certainly has a right to do so," said Wally Renfro, Brand's senior adviser. "But this is an effort that took place over an extended period of time. This is a debate that has gone on in the NCAA for four years and the policy adopted by the executive committee was a result of that discussion."

In announcing its decision, the NCAA said at least 18 schools, including Illinois and Peoria's Bradley University, where teams are nicknamed the Braves, have mascots it deems "hostile or abusive." The NCAA did not immediately define what it would consider hostile or abusive.

The Chief, a student dressed in buckskins who dances at halftime of regular-season home football and basketball games and other athletic contests, has been a flashpoint for years on the campus.

The board of trustees has approved a resolution to seek "consensus conclusion" to the issue, but Eppley said the NCAA's action threatens to derail that process.

"The likely and ironic consequence of the NCAA's provocative rhetoric will be a giant step backward in the debate, re-engagement of harsh and disingenuous rhetoric and the loss of common ground to the armies of divisiveness," Eppley wrote.


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