WSU wants to 'steer clear' of homecoming opponent's mascot

Washington State University Student Entertainment Board (SEB) tweeted a statement on Friday, warning against cultural appropriation at the Saturday homecoming game against the University of Utah. The statement specifically addressed the university’s “Ute” mascot for how it portrays Native Americans.

While the University of Utah football team goes by the “Utah Utes,” its mascot, “Swoop,” is a bird that is indigenous to Utah. The university previously had as its mascot a non-sideline American Indian, which it dropped for “Swoop” in 1996. The school obtained permission from the Ute tribe prior to introducing its new sideline mascot in 1996. 

The SEB says that it does not support cultural appropriation and “would like to steer clear” of the way Utah’s mascot represents Native Americans. 

The University of Utah website states that the history of the Ute name is, “in honor of the American Indian tribe for which the state of Utah is named. The Utes have inhabited this area of the country for at least 1,000 years...The Utes were among the first American Indians to acquire the horse as a means of transportation, and in rock writing the Utes are depicted as horses.” 

The description on the website continues by saying that the University of Utah has the support of the Ute tribe and uses the logo “in cooperation with the Ute Tribal Business Committee.” It further states that the university “is proud to share in the tradition of the Ute tribe through the ‘Utes’ nickname.”

In 2005, the University of Utah was officially removed from the NCAA’s “banned mascot list”. The NCAA at the time said, “In its review of the particular circumstances regarding Central Michigan University and the University of Utah, the NCAA staff review committee noted the relationship between the universities and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan and the Northern Ute Indian Tribe, respectively, as a significant factor.”

The University of Utah athletic director said at the time, “The university has always been close to the Ute tribe. I think it’s standard operating procedure to be in touch with the Ute tribe to do the right thing.”

Less than two days after the SEB issued the statement, it issued a second statement as a “response to all of the backlash.”

”After receiving plenty of hate and frustration for our previous statement regarding Homecoming, we’d like to elaborate on the situation a bit more,” the second statement, issued on Sunday, read. “The previous statement was an attempt to prevent disrespect of the Ute tribe, as Homecoming Week typically involves ‘trash talk’ to our opponent’s school and mascot. WSU SEB did not intend to disregard the memorandum of understanding between the Ute tribe and the University of Utah, and recognizes the University of Utah’s contributions to the tribe.”  

Alana B., a WSU junior, told Campus Reform, “It’s a tradition for the University of Utah and while it’s important to be culturally sensitive I do not have a problem with the Ute logo as a major issue that WSU should focus on.”

Campus Reform reached out to Sarah Sehrt, the gallery director at WSU SEB, but she did not respond to request for comment.

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