The Push to Eradicate Offensive Nicknames published in the Tulsa World

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Point of View: The push to eradicate 'offensive' nicknames

By William J. Brotherton Published: December 23, 2015

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Are there any politically correct nicknames left? Or does every school in the United States have to call itself the Tigers, or the Lions? But maybe those names aren't even OK. After all, they're generally male and aggressive, and in today's political climate, that just won't do.

Example — a brouhaha at Western Washington University, where there is a “debate” about Victor E. Viking, who has symbolized the school for 90-plus years. Just as it started at the University of North Dakota, my alma mater, certain faculty started complaining about hurt feelings. In this case, a communications professor expressed concern that the mascot doesn't reflect the school's “commitment to diversity, our commitment to create a more safe and attractive and inclusive environment on campus.”

The new proposed nickname is the “Western Fern.” I'm sure someone will object to that also.


The professor went on to say that the “mascot also reflects a sort of hyper masculine, hyper violent sort of image which is doubly problematic. I think we really ought to reconsider.” A “student leader” complained that the mascot doesn't portray “students of color.”

How in the world is this school in the same country that generated millions of selfless young men and women who went to war to protect our freedoms? With students and professors like this, is it any wonder that ISIS is rampaging across the world?

I was lead counsel in a lawsuit filed against the University of North Dakota to stop its vote to replace the Fighting Sioux nickname, which it had since 1930. My alma mater is suffering as a result. It has a $5 million budget shortfall because alumni have stopped contributing, and it recently selected the name Fighting Hawks to be its new nickname. Only problem is that Dickinson State University right down the road has the Blue Hawks name. Oops!

Two of our plaintiffs were Sioux tribal members. And even the much-maligned Redskins name has Native American support. One such group is the Native American Guardians Association, which recently filed a federal brief in support of the Redskins name.

Somehow though, the march to purify every sports nickname seems to continue unabated. But it's not just about Native Americans.

How long before Notre Dame faculty and students question the overly masculine and violent Fighting Irish name? And what about the University of Oklahoma, and the Sooners nickname?

After all, Sooners are those privileged white people who jumped in their wagons and raced across Oklahoma in the Land Run of 1889 to take land that had belonged to the natives.

And is even the name Oklahoma safe? The state is named for “red people” in the Choctaw language (“okla” meaning people and “humma” meaning red).

So watch out Vikings fans. You'd better start looking for another nickname. And Oklahoma, start thinking about that new nickname also. And a new state name too!

Brotherton is the principal of the Brotherton Law Firm in Texas and a member of the Missisquoi Abenaki Nation in northern Vermont.