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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Should the Trail of Tears have gone further?

FSU President T.K. Wetherell and Florida Senator Jim King (R-Jacksonville) ought to reprimanded for insensitive statements. Governor Bush needs to help clean up the messFlorida once again has a black eye nationally. This time you can thank the NCAA's politically charged President Miles Brand (who as Indiana University President fired Bobby Knight as Head Basketball coach to appease the national media), and an overeaction from two of Florida's leading legislative figures of the past twenty years Former Democratic House Speaker, and current Florida State President T.K. Wetherell and former Senate President Jim King (who served in the House with Wetherell) for the flap.Two weeks ago, the NCAA announced its long anticipated ban on Indian mascots in postseason competition. Florida State President T.K. Wetherell reacted with venom and hostility the second the ban was announced claiming he was given no advance notice and claimed he would paint the Seminole symbol "three times as large at Doak Campbell Stadium," something that would surely intimidate FSU's rival, Miami who comes to town in less than a month sporting a six game winning streak in the series. Wetherell claimed he had no knowledge of the NCAAs plans even though blog sites, including our sister site Florida College Sports had advance notice about the ban a full month earlier!Most neutral observers are in agreement that the NCAA under Brand overstepped its bounds. Given the opportunity, most institutions would follow the examples set by Ole Miss when they banned the Confederate Battle Flag from home football games (largely because Mississippi State was using the flag as a tool to lure African-American ball players away from Oxford and towards Starkville), and St John's when they changed their name from Redmen to Red Storm and move towards a more sensitive course with counsel from the NCAA instead of ironclad doctrines. However once the NCAA had issued its ruling the other affected member institutions such as the University of Illinois (whose Basketball team nearly won last seasons NCAA title) while disappointed about the ban, sought counsel and did not issue bombastic statements and seek political intervention to berate the NCAA, unlike FSU. Florida State University's leading advocates reaction to the ban has been at best childish and at worst racist. The whole university culture needs to change as demonstrated by this episode: the Seminole nation is not willing to even make an effort to understand what offends so many people about their nickname and gameday rituals.This past week, Senator King urged an anti trust investigation into the NCAA even though the State of Florida has no jurisdiction in the matter and Wetherell stated "maybe the Trail of Tears should have gone farther, I don't know," referring to the Oklahoma Seminole tribe who has been less eager to embrace Florida State's use of the nickname than has the politically charged Florida tribe. King added that the Oklahoma Seminoles who endured great suffering during the Trail of Tears inflicted during Andrew Jackson's administration, were simply Indians who gave up and took the cozy reservation life over a fight like the Florida Seminoles. (If anything it is the opposite: It was the Florida Seminoles who defied American law and cut and ran into the Everglades thus inflicting great losses on American soldiers during the Second Seminole War of 1842-1845: I am not passing judgement on the Florida Seminoles actions and believe they were brave and heroic, but am pointing out that the Oklahoma Seminoles are the ones who complied with the law and the will of the political leadership at the time) Jeb Bush's friend and appointee to the FSU board of Trustees stated FSU Trustee Richard McFarlian alleged that Oklahoma did not have real Seminoles. Does Jeb Bush support McFarlian, King, and Wetherell's statements? Is Governor Bush as the most visible Floridian going to continue to allow Florida to look like an ignorant racist backwater state in the eyes of many in the elite Northern dominated media, an instituion always looking to belittle Florida and the South in general? Will Governor Bush continue to allow Florida's many critics the ammunition for which to laugh at us, thus undermining his own national (and international) efforts to portray Florida as a haven for business and tourists. Could the behavior of Florida lawmakers undermine Florida's efforts to get such international prizes as the FTAA and numerous conventions? While this may all seem like a strecth if Florida gets portrayed the way Mississippi and Alabama did by the media in the 1960s and 1970s, who knows how serious the consequences will be?Florida State University is a major state university in the nation's 4th largest state. It is an institution whose academic reputation has grown immeasurably in the past decade thanks in large measure to its former President Sandy Dalemberte. FSU's boosters in State Government and its current President, a former FSU football player and House Speaker have an obligation to apologize to the citizens of our state and to work with the NCAA to ensure that the Seminoles remain the Seminoles. Anything less would be betrayal of the institution and state they claim to love so much.

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I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.