Resolution to N. Dakota School Nickname Dispute Still Seems Far Off

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sports seasons come and go, but a long-running debate about the use of a Native American nickname and logo by University of North Dakota athletic teams appears nowhere close to a final outcome.

A flurry of activity this week highlights the wide divisions over the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

Those supporting the nickname -- including some Native Americans -- filed petitions asking for a vote this summer on the issue. The university announced Wednesday it is required to resume using it because of the filing of the petitions.

The North Dakota Board of Higher Education, which agreed five years ago to retire the nickname, and the state's attorney general will hold a conference call next week to discuss legal options in the imbroglio.

The board of education and university system want an end to the whole matter.

"We've heard from all sides. There certainly are people who said they want to keep it," John Irby, public affairs consultant for the university system, told CNN Thursday. "But the position again is, we should focus on education and this is robbing and stealing too much from the focus. It is becoming collateral damage."

More damage could be on the horizon in the form of sanctions by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which has a policy against mascots "deemed hostile or abusive toward Native Americans."

In 2005, the NCAA sought to end the controversy surrounding such mascots by ordering some 20 schools whose nicknames and mascots they deemed "abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin" to either get Native American permission to use their name and likeness, or to come up with new ones.

North Dakota is the last holdout in the NCAA's campaign.

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