When the great Southern novelist and noted liberal Pat Conroy wrote an impelling book called, “My Reading Life,” he had quite a line: “I would like to say that political correctness is going to kill American liberalism if it is not fought to the death by people like me for the dangers it represents to free speech, to the exchange of ideas, to open-heartedness, or to the spirit of art itself."
“Political correctness has a stranglehold on academia, on feminism, and on the media,” Conroy wrote with great clarity. “It is a form of both madness and maggotry, and has already silenced the voices of writers like James Dickey across the land.”
I have proof Conroy was right and direct you towards another Pat.
I want you to think hard as you sit beside me facing Knoxville’s “Summit,” the basketball floor that bears the name of a woman who quietly yet forcefully did more for women in Tennessee than any other I can name. Pat Summit’s “Lady Vols” are a regal brand, as they say in today’s marketing classes, and the Lady Vols stand for all that is good, mighty, and right at our state’s flagship university. Why on earth would anyone suddenly stigmatize that?
Allow me to explain. Earlier this week the sage and pompous beards who, more times than not, attempt to fix what is hardly broken at the university announced that this summer there would be a major rebranding in Knoxville called One Tennessee. Makes your heart thump, huh?
Adidas uniforms will give way to the Nike brand and, from that point forward, all athletic teams, regardless of gender, will be called “Tennessee.” Both men and women athletes will be “Volunteers,” or “Vols” with no other distinction in an perplexing age of unisex restrooms, same-sex marriage and all else those of a liberal mindset can think of to make the lives of the majority miserable.
But, at Tennessee, there is a caveat. Yes, one team at Tennessee will remain as the Lady Vols. It will be the team that Pat built, the brand that she established when she personally set the bar higher than the rest for young girls all across the state. It gloriously reflects the years she drove the bus, washed the uniforms and played in front of crowds totally less than 100 before her touch yielded those rousing national championships. Not even university Chancellor Jimmy Cheek dares touch the Lady Vols basketball dynasty.
Instead, the PhD-in-charge embarrassed the university and his office, setting up his own knockdown with a sanctimonious opening that would soon draw scorn from the nation’s feminists: “Brand consistency across the university is critical as we strive to become a Top 25 public research university. It is important we take advantage of all the successes across this great campus, both in academics and athletics.”
Oh please – what rubbish. But what ideal tinder for the fire to come! Cheek sidestepped like a Fiddler crab when he then announced to gaping mouths the women’s basketball team would remain the Lady Vols. Forget the ample and annual monetary contributions to the women’s team, he claimed that had little to do with the thin-veiled exemption lest you be so naive.
The chancellor claimed it was “because of the accomplishments and legacy of the championship program built by Pat Summit and her former players. The Lady Volunteers nickname and brand is truly reflective of Coach Summit and her legacy and will continue to be associated with the basketball team.”
Are you following me here? Double-speak Jimmy is now getting gobbled up in the feminists’ world of ceaseless indignation, but far worse are other women who should really matter and they, too, are incensed. Natalie Brock, a Lady Vol softball player now coaching a college team in Missouri, told USA Today: “It was something different that nobody else had. We had our own identity. I understand things have to change but there is a lot of history and pride that goes with (being a Lady Vol.)”
Chelsea Hatcher played soccer for the Lady Vols, earning first-team All-SEC honors in 2010. She said the basketball team keeping the trademark while it is stripped away from the other women’s teams “feels like a little bit of a slap in the face to the rest of the female athletes who work just as hard every day to represent their university.”
Jennifer Bailey, who was once on the rowing team and never will forget wearing the Orange, didn’t try to hide her hurt. “It’s not just basketball – it’s all of us together. All of us together are the Lady Vols,” she said.
UT women’s basketball coach (excuse me, but how else can you identify her correctly?) Holly Warlick told the media she was behind the One Tennessee campaign that “has united all the athletic teams here” but former swimmer Alex Barsanti ain’t buying it. “Really disappointed and really frustrated,” she told USA Today. “I don’t feel united at all.”
“I think it is weird more than anything,” Barsanti said of the women’s basketball exemption. “I think it almost makes them the outcast of the athletic department if you are trying to do the One Tennessee thing.”
So there you have it. As Charles Osgood once said on a Sunday morning telecast, “Being politically correct means always saying you are sorry.”
And Chancellor Jimmy Cheek should dutifully apologize to every young woman who earned the right to be called a Lady Vol. It is a treasure they’ll carry a lifetime, never a burden at a time in our society where we need more women on pedestals of their making.