Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
(Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune) David W. Pershing, University of Utah president, left, and Gordon Howell, chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee speak to members of the Ute tribe at ceremony at Fort Duchesne Tuesday April 15 where members of the Ute Tribe Business Committee and University of Utah signed a renewed memorandum of understanding outlining the University’s continued use of the Ute name for its athletics teams.
Editorial: University pact good for Utes and Utes

U. deal respects native peoples

First Published Apr 22 2014 04:33 pm • Last Updated Apr 23 2014 10:12 am

There’s really only one — sometimes awkward — way to be sure that your language and behavior haven’t offended someone who you hope is a friend of yours. You ask. And you respect the answer you get.

That’s what the University of Utah has rightly done in regard to the question of whether it is proper for it to continue to use the Ute nickname, and the circle and feather logo, to represent its sports teams.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The new agreement university President David Pershing struck with the Ute Indian Tribe last week is a good one that not only sought and received the blessing of the tribe’s elected leaders for the continued use of the moniker, but also offers the tribe some substantive benefits in return.

Professional and college sports teams that use Native American names, symbols and expressions as their mascots and emblems always claim, of course, that they mean nothing but respect for the peoples whose images they appropriate. No organization, they argue, would willingly give itself an image identifying with any group it sees as weaklings, buffoons or victims.

Clearly, though, it isn’t always true. The blunt racial slur that continues to be the nickname of the National Football League team in our nation’s capital, along with the hurtfully cartoonish images that decorate the licensed gear of, for example, the Cleveland Indians, perpetuate stereotypes that demean human beings for the sake of a joke and a sale.

The advantage the University of Utah has in this regard is that its nickname is not just a general ethnic term of arguable authenticity. It is a clear reference to a specific group of people with elected leaders who can represent their interests.

The memorandum of understanding leaves some things, like the exact amount of money to be devoted to scholarships and outreach, vague. One could argue that the Utes should have held out for a more specific, and more lucrative, deal.

But it does commit the university to such things as offering scholarships to young Ute tribe members, along with other Native Americans. It also promises other outreach efforts that include bringing Ute youths onto campus and helping them with the often difficult, for people of any ethnic background, process of applying for college admission and lining up all the necessary financial aid.

The licensing of images for commercial use is nothing new for colleges. It’s just that, usually, it is the school that grants permission, in return for cash, rather than seeking it.

But this is about more than money. It’s about respect. And, from that standpoint, it’s a good deal all around.

story continues below
story continues below

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.