No blarney: Leprechaun must go
By Mike Downey, Chicago Tribune
Published August 7, 2005

I want that leprechaun put to sleep.

Do you hear me, NCAA? I don't want to see that darn leprechaun at Notre Dame's games anymore. No more of that goofy green suit. No more of that hokey hat. Most of all, no more of that offensive, insensitive, insulting, dehumanizing dance.

As a proud Irish-American, I demand that you make the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame get rid of that stupefying, stereotypical mascot of theirs. And that little jig of his. And I mean pronto, if you'll excuse my use of Indian lingo.

Ladies and gentlemen of the NCAA, I implore you. Do that thing you do. Do what you did Friday, when your executive committee announced that it no longer would tolerate any "hostile and abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery."

A leprechaun is all that.

He is mischievous by nature. He is up to no good. He clearly is abusive. Have you ever seen him treat Notre Dame's enemies with any kindness?

And what of that big, crooked stick in his hand? He doesn't carry that cudgel because he is lame. It isn't a cane. A leprechaun doesn't limp. Look at that little fool do his dance. He moves fine. No, a shillelagh looks like a weapon to me. You wouldn't let a Seminole or an Illini walk around a football stadium with a bow and arrow, would you?

I can guess what you are thinking. You're thinking an Irish-American is not an oppressed minority. Or hasn't been one.

Well, you couldn't be more wrong. Irish immigrants were given a very bad time in America when they first came here. They were treated as suspicious foreigners. Their ancestry and accents were mocked. They were maligned as "Micks" and stigmatized as brawling drunks.

Therefore, I would like you righteous brothers and sisters at the NCAA to put an end to the degradation of this "Fighting Irish" slur once and for all. A lot of us don't fight. I don't fight. Well, I did toss a guy out of a bar in Greece last summer, but he was drunker than I was.

The NCAA has made a good start. The actions it took Friday gave notice to the Bradley Braves and Central Michigan Chippewas and Utah Utes that they had better take all of their Native American garb, arrowheads, weapons and war paint and dump the whole pile into a Dumpster.

If these people want to host a postseason competition ever again, they will have to abide by the NCAA's rules and lose the Indian theme.

You, noble warlords of the NCAA, are taking no prisoners. University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux? What do you care if there are Sioux who don't care? So what if there are remaining members of the Sioux tribe who are honored by this legacy? Your edict has come down. You have spoken. The next time North Dakota plays for a national championship, its mascot had better be Buffalo Bill.

OK, so a lot of us happen to believe that tribal names are not unto themselves offensive. Illini, Seminole, Chippewa, Choctaw these don't seem so bad to us. They have history and dignity. We have entire states named for Indian tribes, for heaven's sake. What do you think the word "Illinois" is, anyway French? Its origin is Algonquin.

What some of us do resent is the way Caucasians paint their faces red and wear buckskin and feathers and go hey-yo-yo-yo and woo-woo-woo. It doesn't matter if there are some Indians who take no umbrage at this, not until you have taken a vote from every last one of them in this land that their ancestors founded.

Jimmy Carter was as humane and decent a president as this nation has had in this last half-century. So it was appalling to see him at Atlanta Braves baseball games, chanting and chopping a make-believe tomahawk. There are ways to support a favorite team without making a mockery of an entire culture and race.

Somebody should take those Cleveland Indians caps with the grinning red-faced Indian and fling them into Ohio's largest incinerator. Somebody should go up to an African-American athlete on the Washington Redskins and ask him how he would like it if his team were known as the Washington uh, you know.

I don't mind a team being called the Irish, I really don't. I take pride in my heritage. I wish we could live in a world in which a university's teams could be called the Fighting Italians, the Fighting Mexicans, the Fighting Japanese or the Fighting Germans.

Yet if we get rid of some, mustn't we get rid of all? Can a school really get away with calling itself the Fighting Irish in the wake of this NCAA posse's vigilant PC crackdown? Doesn't this scurrilous nickname need to go? Isn't it time for the leprechaun to sleep with the fishes?

We have come to a seminal moment in the history of America's collegiate athletics, and I do not mean the team names at Florida State.