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NCAA rules 'Tribe' not offensive; objects to feathers

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See President's letter to the community concerning the NCAA ruling.

William and Mary will appeal a recent ruling by the NCAA stating that the College should stop using two feathers on its athletic logo. In that same ruling, issued in a letter May 16 to William and Mary President Gene R. Nichol, the NCAA review committee did agree with the College that the nickname “Tribe” is not offensive.

“We learned last evening that the NCAA staff review determined the use of the nickname ‘Tribe’ by our athletic teams was neither ‘hostile or abusive,’” Nichol wrote in an e-mail to the campus community and alumni. “The report did object, however, to the use of the feathers as part of our sports logo. We will appeal the ruling as it applies to the logo.”

Nichol added, “The good news, of course, is the NCAA has agreed with our assessment of the term ‘Tribe.’ The nickname—so close to the heart of this community—will remain the College’s moniker.”

In 2004, the NCAA requested that several member institutions, including William and Mary, submit a self-evaluation to determine if the Native American imagery or nicknames used at the schools were hostile or abusive. Schools found in violation would not be permitted to wear the offending logos during postseason competition or be allowed to host postseason NCAA athletic events on their own campuses.

The College will appeal the ruling regarding the use of the feathers to the NCAA’s executive committee and expects a decision by the end of the summer, said William T. Walker, associate vice president for public affairs at William and Mary.

“It boggles our minds that the NCAA would find objectionable what William and Mary does, and at the same time find acceptable what schools like Florida State University do,” said Walker, referring to FSU’s use of a spear-wielding warrior during football games.

“Perhaps it is the absurdity of judgments like these that is causing the U.S. Congress to consider taking this matter out of the hands of the NCAA,” Walker said. “The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and several of his colleagues have introduced legislation that would forbid the NCAA from regulating mascots and nicknames.”

Several schools, including Florida State, have been removed from the list because the NCAA ruled that “namesake” tribes have given authority to use the nicknames. William and Mary uses the generic nickname Tribe. William and Mary does not have a mascot.

“The nickname Tribe connotes the strong sense of community at William and Mary,” Walker said. “It is meant to signify the affirmative and inclusive nature of our campus community, our strong commitment to each other. We are pleased the NCAA agrees.”

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