Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
There is an old adage that goes “one man’s joke is another man’s injury.” The adage came to me on Saturday after I began to see the video circulating on the web with ESPN’s Lee Corso dressed as Chief Osceola and comedian Bill Murray stomping on him ESPN’s “College Gameday” show.
One College Gameday commentator could be heard saying, “oh, my goodness,” laced with laughter.
While there are those who viewed the nationally televised skit as funny, I found the whole thing quite sickening.
The implication was it is okay to beat up on the Florida State University’s Seminole football team – even stomp on those Indians.
Of course, we American Indians know non-Natives have always loved to stomp on us. So much so, the non-Natives for decades put into practice “the only good Indian is a dead Indian!” So it is easy for non-Indians to transfer the same notion into the sports arena.
Don’t get me wrong, I can laugh at a joke. In my senior of high school, I earned the title “class clown” so I know how to make people laugh and how to enjoy a hearty laugh. However, through the years I was taught respect and that there are some things one should not touch. One topic is race and ethnicity. To me there is nothing funny about Bill Murray stomping on “Chief Oseola.”
ESPN should be ashamed this skit was even allowed to air on its network. Bill Murray should stir clear of American Indians.
However, the skit clearly demonstrates the need to do away with usage of American Indian imagery and mascots in sports. Proponents of using Indian images argue they want they are honoring American Indians when sports teams take on the name.
There is no honor when non-Natives use feathers in an inappropriate fashion and paint their faces. There is no honor when non-Natives dress up and look silly as Lee Corso did on Saturday. There is no honor when American Indians become fair game to stomp on.
During the past decade, there has been research done that determined the use of race-based “Indian” stereotypes is harmful to American Indian students in school settings.
Stomping on Indians – even in a playful skit – does damage across racial lines because it allows for the thought to prevail American Indians have lesser value. We, American Indians, know this is not true, but we need to tell non-Natives to “honor” others by beating up on them and leave us alone.
ESPN’s joke on Chief Osceola was an insult.
posted October 22, 2013 2:40 pm edt