Saturday, May 07, 2005

John F. Bergstrom and the “Gold” Decision: Fecklessness Personified

That Chair of the Board of Trustees John Bergstrom was willing to drive to Marquette early this morning and meet with a rather disgruntled crowd – mostly consisting of students – and defend the Board’s decision to adopt “Gold” as a nickname might earn him a point or two.

But that can’t offset the fact that he had no explanation as to why the Board screwed up so badly, nor any admission that the Board screwed up, nor any willingness to reconsider.

He stonewalled.

His talk was rather informative in a lot of ways, however. In response to various questions the following points came out:

– Bergstrom claimed that he very much wanted to return to “Warriors” as a nickname, but changed his mind when he met with tribal leaders who spoke of their desire for “respect.” We asked why he blew off polls showing that the vast majority of Indians don’t mind Indian nicknames, and the fact that tribes like the Seminoles of Florida have explicitly said that Indian nicknames are fine. We further asked him if he had considered the possibility that he was talking to racial hustlers, people who specialize in collecting grievances. He had pretty much no response, except to lamely reiterate that it was Wisconsin Indian leaders he had talked to.

– Bergstrom admitted that his own Saturn division had done polling on the nickname, and that “Warriors” was a blowout favorite.

– Bergstrom said that it would be hard to “build a brand” with the name “Golden Eagles” since several other teams have that name.

– Bergstrom admitted that the issue had been highly divisive on the Board. He lamented that for much of the year the Board had trouble getting other business done because of the fixation on the nickname issue. Indeed, he insisted that at the Board meeting this past Wednesday several members were strenuously arguing for “Warriors.” This of course raises the question of why there was a unanimous vote to go with “Gold.” In the wake of the massively negative reaction to “Gold,” there are probably several Trustees who wish they had held their ground and at least registered a dissent.

– Bergstrom denied that Marquette had been threatened with any lawsuits if it adopted an Indian nickname. But then he mentioned that an NFL team is soon going to be faced with a lawsuit over an Indian nickname, with hotshot lawyers on both sides – raising the thought that the Trustees were indeed worried about being sued.

– Bergstrom explained that “Warriors” was politically incorrect (although he didn’t use the term) and “Golden Avalanche” was objectionable since “it’s a bar.” A questioner asked “have we become so politically correct that the only nickname that’s acceptable is a color?” This generated a hearty and sustained round of applause.

– One of the more bizarre elements was Bergstrom’s claim that “faculty thoughts” had heavily influenced his decision. Even among Marquette’s quite liberal faculty, 55% of the faculty said (in the University’s survey) that they identify with the “Warriors” nickname, 33% did not, and 12% were either neutral or did not answer.

The faculty who were listened to, of course, were the leftists. Indeed, Bergstrom told the crowd that Heather Hathaway, politically correct member of the English Department, used to babysit for him and his wife.

The bizarre thing about this is that leftist academics hate people like Republican businessman John Bergstrom, and particularly hate Hummers, which Bergstrom sells!

Bergstrom doubtless loves Marquette, and he’s doubtless a shrewd businessman, but he came across as quite obtuse and “over his head” dealing with issues like this.

But there is another perspective. Some of our sources tell us he certainly knew better, but was playing the “good soldier” and falling on his sword out of loyalty to Marquette. If so, that was bad judgment. Had a few of the Trustees raised hell and spoken out against the “Gold” insanity, rather than supinely allowing Wild to claim a unanimous vote, the University would be much better off.

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