Speaking of silliness in college football, check out this incisive piece by George Will on the the NCAA’s ridiculous crack down on school mascots deemed “hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin.” Although teams like the FSU Seminoles and the Utah Utes can keep their mascots – the two tribes that are the schools’ namesakes are evidently unoffended – another dozen schools, including the Illinois Illini and the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, need to either change their names or lose the right to host postseason tournaments or events.

illini.jpeg Offensive? renegade2-lg.jpg Not Offensive?

Watch out fans of the LSU Fighting Tigers; Mike the Tiger could be next. No, nothing is offensive per se about a bengal tiger. Even the most strident PETA loyalist must admit Mike is treated royally in his new digs near Tiger Stadium. It is not a stretch, however, in this age when “being an offended busybody is considered evidence of advanced thinking and an exquisite sensibility,” to consider the “Fighting Tigers” nickname inherently racist. Yes, racist.

miketiger.jpgleestigers.jpg Racist???

According to historians Arthur W. Bergeron and Terry L. Jones, the name “Fighting Tigers” is derived from a notorious group of Confederate soldiers from Louisiana whose drunk and rowdy behavior was tolerated only because of their incredible results on the battlefield. They write that the volunteer company nicknamed the Tiger Rifles, sometimes called the “wharf rats from New Orleans” and the “lowest scrapings of the Mississippi,” became part of the Confederate batallion commanded by Major Chatam Roberdeau Wheat. In time, Wheat’s entire battalion was called the Tigers, and the name was later applied to all Louisiana troops of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

That’s the same Confederacy that is today freely associated with slavery, hatred, and racism. Although only a tiny fraction of Southerners owned slaves during the Civil War (a/k/a the War Between the States), the NAACP vehemently protests at any public display of the Confederate Battle Flag, even when it is flown at a memorial site in honor of Confederate Memorial Day.

So if team names like the Bradley Braves and UL-Monroe Indians are racially hostile, is not it equally offensive to have a moniker honoring those who, in the NAACP’s view, were American traitors and fought a war to maintain the enslavement of an entire race of people? Before we have that debate, one can only hope the NCAA will take Will’s advice and retreat from its foray into sensitivity politics. Or alternatively, realize that “Fighting Tigers” is the perfect nickname for LSU. As even the most ardent LSU supporters must admit, the institution does at times embody those distinctive traits of drunkenness, disorderly behavior, and bravery in battle.

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