With the announcement that Washington will drop the Redskins moniker, sports programs that use Native American names and imagery are under intense scrutiny. The Cleveland Indians already announced that they are exploring a name change while a pair of rival high schools in New Jersey have announced that they will move on from the Cowboys and Indians nicknames. One university that has been lumped into this movement is Florida State University, but the disdain towards their use of the Seminole name isn’t justified. Instead, Florida State needs to be looked at as the institution that set the example of how to properly and respectfully utilize Native American imagery.
For more than 70 years, Florida State has had a strong relationship with the Seminole tribe, who originated in Florida and still has two tribes in the Sunshine State with a third tribe in Oklahoma. The development of the university’s logo was sanctioned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The tribe’s endorsement was a major factor in the NCAA’s decision to allow Florida State to continue to use the Seminole name in 2005, after the association compiled a list of colleges who used “hostile or abuse’ Native American names or imagery.
Another example of the school’s decision to be more socially conscious about the tribe was the decision to officially add black and white to the school’s colors, to better represent the colors of the Seminole flag, which was done with input from the tribe.
Florida State also established a scholarship program that pays for the tuition of students from the reservations to attend Florida State. For many of these students, they are the first person in their family to attend college.
Additionally, the Seminole tribe is active on Florida State’s campus. The tribe are involved in many events across campus, including crowning the school’s homecoming chief and princess with authentic Seminole regalia, the tribe participates as the color guard during graduation ceremonies and the tribe even built an authentic “chickee” to serve as a lakeside student recreation center.
Florida State recognized that the best way to honor the Native American culture they wished to use as their moniker was to not just stop at ensuring the usage of the imagery was respectable but to create an inclusive community that includes giving the tribe a voice and collaboration.
“The Tribe views the relationship as a multi-dimensional collaboration that provides meaningful educational opportunities and other positive outcomes,” tribe spokesman Gary Bitner said to TampaBay.com’s Matt Baker.
A little respect goes a long way. Instead of pushing back and claiming that the Redskins name change is a byproduct of “PC culture” teams should instead be taking a page from Florida State’s book and using the imagery for the greater good.