October 19, 2013

ESPN's Seminole minstrel show

Here's a perfect example of how Indian mascots are racist, offensive, and insulting:

ESPN Has ‘No Comment' on Its College GameDay 'Minstrel Show'This weekend, during the preview for the college football game between Florida State University and Clemson on ESPN’s College GameDay, actor-comedian Bill Murray delighted a crowd of students by selecting Clemson to win the game. Moments later, ESPN analyst Lee Corso entered the set dressed as FSU mascot Chief Osceola, and danced around for several seconds, holding a staff covered in yellow, red and white feathers. Murray, pretending to be a pro wrestler, then “body-slammed” Corso and hurled the staff into the crowd.

ESPN declined on Sunday to comment about the incident.

The FSU tradition, which some members of the Seminole tribe have called a “minstrel show.” dates back to 1978: A man dressed up like a tribal 'chief' named Osceola (né William Powell), rides out onto the field at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee on a horse before home games and throws a flaming spear into the ground at midfield while the crowd goes wild.
And:"This is a perfect example of how Native Americans are ridiculed in the course of sports entertainment. Good-natured rivalries are one thing. Wearing the native equivalent of black face is quite another,” said an NCAI spokeswoman of this weekend’s FSU incident.A commenter on Deadspin summed it up nicely:That would be a lot more tolerable if somebody as notoriously out-of-touch as "Disco! Hey I like that" Lee Corso wasn't the guy making a "comedic" mockery of Native Americans. I'm all for Blazing Saddles, but having a 200 year old white male football commentator do a five-year-old's version of a native american ritual in the cartoonish guise of a revered leader of a tribe eradicated 150 years ago by old white men is pretty offensive.

ESPN: No Comment on Talent 'Wearing the Native Equivalent of Black Face'

This is not how you honor Native American heritage.

By Andrew Cohen
Each week, Lee Corso, a nationally known college football commentator, dons the garb of the team he is picking to win the feature game of the weekend. Sometimes, Corso wears a mascot head. Sometimes he dresses up. The college kids eat it up. It's great fun and great for the show's ratings. On Saturday, Corso, an alum of FSU, happened to pick his alma mater to beat Clemson (which FSU did, by a lot), which is why he was dressed up like Osceola. (Update: I don't mean to suggest this is the first time he has done this. Here is how he did it last year)

It's nothing personal against Native Americans, ESPN wants you to know. It's strictly business and entirely part of the show's routine. So a white man dresses up like an American Indian "chief," dances around the set like a clown, gets tackled by Bill Murray, the spear gets tossed into the crowd at Clemson, and everyone has a grand old time, including the on-air talent and ESPN's own online tribunes.

Evidently, no one at ESPN stopped to think: "Hey, maybe some folks might consider Corso's dance inappropriate" especially for a network that has covered the "Redskins" controversy and has a huge stake in the success and reputation of the National Football League (and college football, for that matter). And clearly no one afterward at the network seemed inclined to offer any sort of explanation or rationale for what had just aired.

But the fact is that many people did consider the episode highly offensive.
More commentaries on Corso's minstrel show:

ESPN Makes a Mockery of Native Americans on National Television

ESPN’s “Red-face” Minstrel Show by Matt Remle

Native American group unhappy with Lee Corson for portraying Seminole on College GameDay

For more on the Seminole mascot, see Seminole Fans in Plains Headdresses and Why FSU's Seminoles Aren't Okay.

No comments: