Seyram A. Butame

You see the Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys/ They ain't gonna fight no wars.

Using ethnicity as a mascot.

29 December 2021

“We smash cougars congrats lady noles.”

The signage references a football (soccer) match between FSU and BYU, which took place on December 06, 2021. FSU won its third women’s national championship.


Today, I was driving near the FSU campus and noticed a popular local restaurant sign. The double entendre aside (i.e., having sex with a sexually promiscuous older woman), what is “lady nole”? This is a small part of what bothers me about FSU’s insistence on using ethnicity as a mascot. People at FSU refer to themselves as Seminoles (after the indigenous group that once occupied the lands on which the University and the greater town of Tallahassee sits). Being a Seminole is meant to embody the fearless, undying and unconquerable spirit of the Seminole people. The Seminole people, of course, had to adopt that indomitable spirit in the face of the existential threat of colonialism and European settlers stealing their traditional lands.

However, choosing to use an ethnic group as a mascot is a reductive process that strips the rich history and culture of a people, turning them into bland symbols with little to no meaning. The FSU body choosing to be Seminoles presents an opportunity to learn about the indigenous people who occupied this area for centuries if not millennia and were disposed of land, faced genocide at the hands of Europeans. A valuable lesson to be had on what happens when different groups collide. Instead, it comes down to some guy with paint smeared on his face, throwing a spear into the ground, the University population chanting inanely at games, and referring to a group of athletes as “lady noles”.

The signage would have been a fantastic opportunity to use the word for females/girls/women in the Seminole language (I believe Mikasuki or one of the related dialects was the traditional language). Instead, the footall team is called “lady noles”.

Also, why the insistence on gendering the football team? FSU doesn’t have the gentlemen noles. We only get the female qualifier when referencing women’s football or sports. I suppose it assumes that the men’s sports are the template and so qualifiers are only warrented for the non-male events (a cultural issue we need to discuss some more). When I lived in Memphis, Tennessee, this practice was such an irritant to me. The women’s sports teams were called “lady tigers”. There is a perfectly serviceable word in English that denotes female tigers, yet the boosters, Univ administration, etc., chose that clunky turn of phrase. They emblazoned it on t-shirts, mugs, clappers, and all manner of sports doodads. It was exhausting.


The FSU Semioles beat the BYU Cougars via penalties

Yujie Zhao rocketed home the winning penalty kick, and Florida State edged BYU 4-3 in PKs on Monday night to win its third women’s national championship in program history and second in the past four years.