October 20, 2011
In August, North Dakota's Board of Higher Education formally decided to retire UND's use of the "Fighting Sioux" as a nickname and logo, as the NCAA held firm that the moniker is offensive to Native Americans and that the university would be sanctioned if it didn't eliminate it.
The issue remains hotly contested in state politics, as some North Dakota representatives feel the NCAA sanctions are too severe to continue this fight. Others want to fight on: There could be further legislation this fall to force North Dakota to retain the nickname.
As part of those efforts: An estimate of the name change's financial impact, tabulated by UND officials. University President Robert Kelley's estimate? That wiping away Fighting Sioux from the university's facilities, uniforms and elsewhere will cost nearly $750,000.
The bulk of Kelley's cost estimate is $575,000 to develop a new nickname and logo, counting research, development, branding and launching. That also would include logo redesigns for special groups, such as Sioux Kids Club and Sioux Crew.
Replacement of logo-bearing uniforms, practice gear and other equipment would cost about $95,000, he reported. Changes to web sites, stationery and other letterhead materials would require about $13,250.
Removing Sioux logos from facilities under the control of UND, including from football end-zone turf, would cost about $63,000, Kelley said.
That's a lot of wampum.
I've never agreed with the NCAA or local prep sports organizations forcing out Native American nicknames and logos when they have reverence: Warriors or Braves, that kind of thing. (Deplorable names like "Redskins" would be at the opposite end of that spectrum.)
But I also know that as a pudgy white kid from Jersey, this isn't my fight; I've spoken with Native Americans who couldn't give a toss about the mascots, and I've spoken with some that squirm when they see an Indian head on a hockey sweater.
In the case of the Fighting Sioux, the Spirit Lake Sioux has backed the nickname throughout this process (the Standing Rock Sioux have never voted on it).
From The Washington Times, which had a great rundown of the controversy, the Spirit Lake Sioux released a statement earlier this month:
The committee criticized state and NCAA leaders for failing to include the Sioux in the decision-making process and called the NCAA policy prohibiting Indian nicknames for university sports teams "racist."
"Indeed, we have no choice but to conclude that the only time a Native American voice is heard on this matter is when it comes from the mouths of the small minority who conveniently share the views of the politically correct academic elite and the crafters of this policy," said the statement from the tribe's Committee for Understanding and Respect.
The threat of sanctions will likely be enough to end this fight this year. Then North Dakota needs to find another moniker. Wonder if "The Bureaucrats" has any steam ...