The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) asked The University of North Carolina at Pembroke to once again study the use of its American Indian athletic logo and nickname.
UNCP’s mascot is a red-tailed hawk, and its nickname is “the Braves.” The athletic logo incorporates both hawk and Brave images.
The University was asked to submit a report to the NCAA governing body by May 1. In 2002, UNCP was among 31 schools identified by an NCAA committee as having mascots or logos that could be considered controversial.
UNCP used an American Indian mascot until 1991, when former Chancellor Joseph Oxendine banned its use and replaced it with a red-tailed hawk. The school has used the "Braves" nickname since the 1940s.
“We are following the community’s lead on this,” Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said. “If the community says we should change our nickname and logo, we will do it.”
UNCP’s Board of Trustees, which currently has five American Indians on it, voted unanimously in 2003 in support the Brave nickname. Chancellor Meadors and the Athletic Department believe there is widespread support for it.
On Feb. 15, the Lumbee Tribal Council voted unanimously in support of the Brave logo and nickname.
A student-led petition supporting the Brave nickname garnered nearly 2,000 votes on and off campus in just two weeks, said Bryan Chavis, a Lumbee from the nearby Prospect community. Chavis is a Navy veteran and science education major whose parents and grandfather graduated from UNCP.
“Everybody I talked to had a positive reaction to the petition,” Chavis said. “I started the petition as soon as I heard about it on the news.”
The petition “strongly supports” the Brave nickname, and states, “to change the logo or term ‘Brave’ would be an affront to the Native Americans who sacrificed so much to establish this University.”
“My grandfather always said ‘if you don’t know where you came from, you’ll never know where you’re going’,” Chavis said.
UNCP was founded in 1887 as a normal school to educate American Indian teachers. Today, more than 1,000 or about one-fifth of UNCP’s enrollment is American Indian, mostly from the large Lumbee Tribe that surrounds Pembroke.
Chancellor Meadors told the trustees at a recent board meeting that he would seek the advice of the Lumbee Tribal Council in the matter, and possibly conduct a survey.
Athletic Director Dan Kenney said he will help advise a six-member campus steering committee that will respond to the latest NCAA query. The committee is comprised of School of Education Dean Zoe Locklear, who is Native American; Dr. Linda Oxendine, chair of the American Indian Studies program and also a Lumbee; Dr. Tom Dooling, a physics professor and former chair of the Faculty Senate, Mike DeCinti, a broadcasting professor, Amber Rach, director of University Communications and Abdul Ghaffar, UNCP’s director of student activities and a former UNCP athlete.
"If the community ever tells us this is not the link that they want to our past, we will pull it. I feel that the community is comfortable with it," Kenney said.
"It is a little bit frustrating for us," Kenney said. "In 2003, we thought we should have been pulled out of this process because of our uniqueness."