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The Daily Tar Heel

Commission Wants Mascots Retired

The statement is only the commission's opinion and has no legal implications.

Charlene Teters, a member of Spokane Nation, gave reserved praise to the committee's statement. "It's a step in the right direction," she said.

Teters said that while many middle and high schools have responded to the statement with plans for mascot changes, no major universities have signaled any intention to drop their teams' nicknames because of the statement.

Many high-profile schools still use American-Indian mascots. The Florida State University Seminoles, the University of Illinois Illini and the San Diego State University Aztecs are three prominent examples.

Teters attributed the colleges' higher resistance to change to the amount of exposure fans have to the mascot.

While high school students only have a few years of contact with their teams, fans tend to have longer relationships with college sport teams. "Sometimes these traditions are hard to change when you're talking about multigenerational attachments," Teters said.

But many colleges and universities have changed their mascot. Miami University in Ohio and St. John's University in New York City are among the schools that have replaced American Indian mascots in the last decade.

Holly Wissing, Miami's director of news and public information, said the school's decision to change its name from Redskins to RedHawks five years ago was a relatively easy one.

"Miami has had a longstanding tie with the Miami tribe," she said. "The tribe early on had supported the use of the Redskins nickname."

But in 1996, the tribe passed a resolution asking the university to find a new name for its athletic teams. Miami promptly changed Redskins to RedHawks, and Wissing said the students have adapted well. "It was controversial, but most people thought it was best to change it," she said.

Wissing said many of the dissenters claimed the school was bowing to political correctness, but added the issue was a matter of human rights rather than political correctness.

In a statement released directly after the commission's report, FSU President Sandy D'Alemberte stressed the respect between his school and the Seminoles.

"Florida State University has enjoyed a close relationship with the Seminole tribe of Florida, and we try to make sure that all we do shows respect and admiration for the Seminole people," D'Alemberte said.

Yet Teters said the use of American- Indian mascots undermines their position in society regardless of whether people realize it.

"These schools educate and graduate people who are used to using a group of people as entertainment."

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