Last summer BYU made a big public push to get into the Big 12 Conference. Joining the Big 12 would mean a lot more money to the university and a lot more prestige for their athletic programs. Not everyone is excited about BYU joining the Big 12 however. Iowa State University students protested BYU’s entrance into the Big 12, concerned that BYU’s policy on gay athletes would cause problems with their own gay athletes. I asked Dr. Darron Smith of the University of Memphis what he thought about this issue.
Darron: I think that they [BYU] have enough sense to know that the world is watching them when it pertains to this kind of a thing. So I understand and I’m sympathetic to what the plight of the gay athlete is at the Big 12 Conference, but I think it’s a little bit overstated paranoia.
It’s not the first time BYU has been the subject of protests. Back in the 60s, the University of Wyoming had fourteen players who protested playing BYU. It was a pretty ugly incident back in the day.
Darron: The Black Fourteen were fourteen young black men who were in the 1960s like most predominantly white institutions were starting to recruit black players, the WAC [Western Athletic Conference] was recruiting black players in the mid to late 60s….blacks are wanting to assert themselves and they want to protest BYU’s position on blacks via the Mormon Church, so they’re coming after BYU via the Mormon Church’s position on blacks. BYU’s a target.
There were also some other protests. Stanford University isn’t exactly spotless with regards to race relations either. Was Stanford hypocritical when they protested playing BYU?
Darron: Very hypocritical, very hypocritical. It goes to show you where our level of thinking is around issues of race were during that time frame. The focus was on African-Americans, right. That was the focus. Pull the beam out of your own eye before you turn the gaze on others. They didn’t see that as a problem.
We’ll also talk about some other professional sports teams: the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves. We’ll even talk about the Utah Utes. Are those racist mascots? What does Dr. Darron Smith of the University of Memphis think about those?
Darron: It’s still racist. I call it commodity racism, racism with a twist. Yes. Because you’re still using, still tapping into the same stereotypical ideas, whether you have their permission or not, you’re still reinforcing a cosmology of racial indifference, that these people aren’t set up for this type of endeavor, to be the fodder of entertainment, so yeah.
Should these teams change their mascots? Let’s listen in on our conversation….