Lee Corso, an ESPN announcer, dressed up like Florida State's mascot on one of GameDay's broadcasts.

ESPN Has ‘No Comment' on Its College GameDay 'Minstrel Show'


This weekend, during the preview for the college football game between Florida State University and Clemson on ESPN’s College GameDay, actor-comedian Bill Murray delighted a crowd of students by selecting Clemson to win the game. Moments later, ESPN analyst Lee Corso entered the set dressed as FSU mascot Chief Osceola, and danced around for several seconds, holding a staff covered in yellow, red and white feathers. Murray, pretending to be a pro wrestler, then “body-slammed” Corso and hurled the staff into the crowd. (See the video here)

ESPN declined on Sunday to comment about the incident.

The FSU tradition, which some members of the Seminole tribe have called a “minstrel show.” dates back to 1978: A man dressed up like a tribal 'chief' named Osceola (né William Powell), rides out onto the field at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee on a horse before home games and throws a flaming spear into the ground at midfield while the crowd goes wild. 

The tribe officially sanctioned FSU's use of Seminoles as a nickname and Chief Osceola as a mascot. In 2005, Max Osceola, the chief and general council president of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, said that it was an 'honor' to be associated with FSU. In the past, some members of the Seminole Indian Tribe have supported the mascot—according to the university, Seminole women designed the Chief’s costume. 

But even if FSU's use of the tribe's name is not supposed to be disrespectful, this skit by ESPN put the tribe's identity out there for the public to misuse.

Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic agrees. “Here's how it works,” he wrote. “ESPN defends the actions of its on-air talent by pointing to the FSU tradition and its GameDay tradition. FSU, in turn, defends itself by claiming that some members of the Seminole tribe support the "Osceola and Renegade" show (even while other members of the tribe call it a "minstrel show.") And a whole new generation of college students learns the lesson that it's okay to denigrate Native American traditions and symbols—to think it's all great fun and a big joke.”

Screen Shot of the GameDay broadcast of Bill Murray, left, after he slammed ESPN's Lee Corso.

This incident comes in the midst of the heated debate about the Washington Redskins name change. Daniel Snyder, the team’s owner, has refused to change the team’s name, despite Native American groups, such as the National Congress of American Indians calling the name offensive and derogatory.

"This is a perfect example of how Native Americans are ridiculed in the course of sports entertainment. Good-natured rivalries are one thing. Wearing the native equivalent of black face is quite another,” said an NCAI spokeswoman of this weekend’s FSU incident. “The Eagle Staff carried by Mr. Corso and thrown into the crowd by Mr. Murray is as sacred symbol of leadership and today is used to honor our Native veterans who have served this country. That it was used as a prop in this mockery and shown such disrespect is proof that our heritage and culture are not honored or respected by the slurs and caricatures used by sports teams.”



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Yourstruley's picture
Submitted by Yourstruley on
If you want to have this taken serious, please provide source links. I'd love to see where it was called a Minstrel show by people of the Seminole tribe. Please, I'm waiting

Yourstruley's picture
Submitted by Yourstruley on
I see my comments have to be approved, so my last comment wont be because you are afraid of being called out for making shit up. What is exactly what you did, being that I am part of the Seminole Tribe in Tallahassee. Perhaps you can give me a name?

Arnold Ziffell's picture
Arnold Ziffell
Submitted by Arnold Ziffell on
FSU is very supportive of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the students and grads know that ..Lee Corso also a FSU grad very well understands the relationship and as opposed to most of the people at espn he knows the tradition.

hammertime's picture
Submitted by hammertime on
a comdeian and corso clown around on stage , I saw it on tv live and I thought it was pretty funny at the time.... The only thing that might have been offensive was Murry throwing the feather staff into the crowd....Bill Murray probably did not know any better...... perhaps the mock fighting in front of the crowd went a little too far , but I dont feel that any of it was meant to offend any Native Americans....intentioinally anyway one of the funniest guys that walks the planet clowns around like he did on stage at a college football game. and acts like he is beating up the mascot of the florida team..... and someone just has to find reason to take offence to it.... for gods sake...step back and take a deep breath please..... .

DelawareMember's picture
Submitted by DelawareMember on
This is not an issue. The Seminoles are presented in a positive way by Florida State. Lee Corso always is a goof ball. Please don't make a moutain out of a molehill. The use of Redskins is in a completely different league than this.