In recent years, the names of sports teams’ mascots have come under fire, particularly professional sports teams such as the Cleveland Indians or Washington Redskins which used mascots with the likeness of indigenous peoples. But there is one that has a strong history with the support of their namesake. That’s the Florida State Seminoles.
What is Florida State the Seminoles?
In 1977, Florida State University alum Bill Durham introduced the idea of creating not just a mascot, but a tribute to the tribe the school chose as their nickname. And so Bobby Bowden‘s wife, Ann, helped implement the idea.
Durham went to the Seminole Tribe of Florida tribal council and not only received their blessing on the idea, but their help in creating the regalia that Chief Osceola would wear while riding Renegade. Without the support of the tribe itself, this tradition, along with the university’s use of the Seminole name, would have ended long ago.
The name Osceola comes from one of the leaders of the Seminole people during the second Seminole Wars in Florida.
It was September 16, 1978 on a gameday against Oklahoma State when Chief Osceola and Renegade made their debut. Osceola led the football team onto the field riding his famous Appaloosa horse and throwing a flaming spear into the ground at midfield.
Still, Osceola and Renegade lead the charge onto the field at Doak Campbell Stadium for every home football game and homecoming and have even done so for the National Championship game on two occasions, first in 1993 for the Orange Bowl and then again 20 years later in 2013 for the Rose Bowl.
Durham oversaw the tradition from the beginning and until he retired in 2002, and his son Allen, who served as Osceola from 1992 to 1994, took over in his place.
There have been 18 Florida State students to dress as Chief Osceola while the Durham family supplied the school with six Appaloosa horses to play the role of the horse Renegade.
Since the introduction in 1978, there have been other ways the school has honored the Native American tribe, like the tomahawk chop and the war chant, both started around 1984.
Why Can Florida State Keep Their Mascot?
The school has tried stopping certain practices to lower the chances of offending the United States Indian population, like asking fans to refrain from wearing Native American head dresses and not using Osceola and Renegade as cheerleaders. They also refer to them as their “school symbols” and not the actual Florida State team mascot.
Not everyone enjoys the use of American Indians as a mascot or nickname, though. The Washington Redskins of the NFL have had much more trouble with their name because they don’t have the ties to the Seminole Tribe like FSU, so much so that they rebranded to the Washington Football Team.
The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma gave the school issues, but FSU received continued support from the tribe in Tallahassee and even from the NCAA after being warned in 2005 about their use of an Indian as a mascot.
This article was originally published June 27, 2019.