North Dakota’s Nickname Is Sticking Around A Little Longer

February 9, 2012 – 8:39 pm by McD

Back in June, I wrote that the NCAA was coming down harshly on the University of North Dakota for its “offensive” mascot simply because the NCAA was too afraid to go after the more powerful member institutions and too weak to actually enforce its own rule.

Since then, laws have been passed in North Dakota that ban the university from dropping the nickname and also to allow the university to drop the nickname (you read that correctly). Petitions have also been filed recently to force the issue onto the ballot this fall, meaning the school is still using the “Fighting Sioux” nickname until further notice.

So yeah, things have gotten a little out of hand.

Rest assured that the mascot will probably be dropped at some point this summer if the members of the Big Sky Conference (which UND is joining July 1) decide to threaten to withdraw UND’s invitation to join the conference. If there is one thing colleges reliably do, it’s protect their income at all costs. Also, who knew there was any money involved in the Big Sky conference?

Also, keep in mind this only affects UND because they do not play football in Division I-A (they’re moving up to 1-AA with the rest of the Big Sky) and the Standing Rock tribe stated they do not support the school’s use of the name. And for a minute there, the school actually complied with the rule and got rid of all Sioux-related things from their school and athletic department, at a cost estimated to be $750,000. This article even says the school can’t pick a new mascot until 2015, which makes perfect sense.

My argument was that the NCAA is only picking on UND because it can’t enforce this policy in all situations. They were never serious about making Florida State or other powerful institutions with Native American mascots get rid of them because they have no power over the big football schools. FSU can tell the NCAA to f**k itself if it wants because its biggest revenue stream (football) is outside the control of the NCAA. UND can’t.

Moreover, the NCAA only cares about certain nicknames: those that don’t receive the endorsement of the local indigenous population. Florida State was allowed to have the Seminole tribe “endorse” FSU’s use of the Seminole as its mascot. One wonders how that deal was made.

The Standing Rock Sioux didn’t give UND permission, and therefore the university is screwed.

Yet the NCAA has still never articulated what makes the Seminole not offensive and the Fighting Sioux offensive. They don’t actually differentiate; they let the schools get “endorsements” or whatever you want to call them. The presence of Native American imagery is not automatically offensive any more than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish nickname and mascot is offensive on its face.

But I’m not here to argue that the use of “Fighting Sioux” isn’t offensive. If people, especially the Sioux, don’t like it, then it’s in everyone’s best interest to change the mascot. We can all admit that many sports mascots were created at a time when racial sensitivity wasn’t at an all-time high. Cough. Notre Dame. Cough.

The selective enforcement of this rule is the problem here. If the NCAA were serious about this, they would have created harsher penalties for noncompliance than being unable to host regionals or whatever. They also would have forced all member institutions to comply or else. Further, they would have laid out criteria for WHY these logos are offensive. It isn’t self-evident to everyone, as shown by all the people in North Dakota collecting signatures to keep the Fighting Sioux mascot. The biggest problem with political correctness is the inability of its foremost proponents to talk about the issues without being condescending or assuming everyone just understands them.

But this is, again, where Division I-A football money is the biggest problem in all of college sports. The NCAA, should they ever choose to enforce this rule wholesale, would have to have all member institutions under its control. The only way to get the FBS under its thumb is to create an NCAA football championship. That, however, would cause the bowls and major football schools to revolt and create their own system totally outside of NCAA purview. This is the nightmare scenario for the NCAA, and it’s the reason why no one from their offices tried to enforce the rule.

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  1. 15 Responses to “North Dakota’s Nickname Is Sticking Around A Little Longer”

  2. The NCAA is a joke. Shame on them picking on a little school. There are more than one Sioux tribe in North Dakota with one being a vocal supporter of the name (The Spirit Lake Sioux tribe). It’s a shame that UND would need every tribe’s endorsement.

    By Sportmentary on Feb 10, 2012

  3. NCAA should be sued for racial discrimination. NCAA obviously has a real problem with Native Americans to be so revolted by their very name and image that they impose sanctions on schools to wipe away every reference to the Sioux nation displayed.

    By Anonymous on Feb 10, 2012

  4. What the Seminole nation and the Lakota nation do are two entirely different things, since they are entirely two different indigenous nations and don’t have “one mind.” Furthermore, if they do what is in their power to do, who are we to judge? The Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest in this country and yet, they should roll over and let their traditions be used for sport and our entertainment. I just don’t understand how you think. If it costs 75,000 it’s only the fault of the offending team. They should have known better. If they would have used commonsense and asked and thought that the soveriegn indigenous nation might care what one of it’s names are used for, well then they wouldn’t have had to pay. You are not native and cannot possibly understand. We need to start respecting that if someone or a group of people have feelings so strongly, they probably have their own good reasons and we should try to see it from their perspective. Indigenous people owe you and your institutions NOTHING. Written by a Concerned and reverent white woman.

    By Nina on Feb 10, 2012

  5. this nicknamehas been opposed for 30 years. This school has had 30 years to give a shit about the opinion of the indigenous persons who do care, who I have a feeling are in the majority, and this article spins it as though this hasn’t been so. As though this 75,000 is somehow the fault of anyone else but the offending school ignoring 30 years of opposition.

    By Nina on Feb 10, 2012

  6. I am an Elder in my Sioux tribe and I have spoken with many of my friends and relatives in North Dakota and South Dakota. We (meaning 100′s of tribal members)are all members of the various Sioux Reservations and we agree that UND should keep the Fighting Sioux name. They have not brought shame to our people as many of our RADICAL young leaders do. They have yet to learn the wisdom and caring for our people that Wakan Tanka wants for all mankind. One tribe in North Dakota does not speak for all the Sioux, NCAA.

    By Lakhota Elder on Feb 10, 2012

  7. North Dakota, change your name to the FIGHTING VIKINGS. Our ancestors were fierce warriors, known for raiding and plundering other countries. We as Norskys, are proud of our heritage, and would consider it an honor to have you use our name. Go FIGHTING VIKINGS!! Sounds good!

    By NORSKY on Feb 10, 2012

  8. http://www.bluecorncomics.com/und.htm

    By Nina on Feb 10, 2012

  9. Nina, you are obviously very clueless in regards to the nickname issue. The majority of Native Amercians living in North Dakota LOVE the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. Many, proudly wear UND clothing.

    The people who oppose it are a very small minority. If the Standing Rock Tribal council let their people voice their opinion on the nickname, it’d be widely supported. There is a reason why the Spirit Lake tribe had a voting margin of 2 to 1 in support of the nickname.

    By NorthDakotaMan on Feb 10, 2012

  10. So the Standing Rock nation, The Sisseton Wahpeton naton, The Oglala nation, The Rosebud nation, Yankton nation Crow Creek nation, and the Cheyenne River nation are somehow one nation? Let alone the Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Tribal Business Council? You must be an elder since you know the name for God used by the Lakota nations. However you would cause division amongs your nations and be misled when you say one nation shouldn’t decide the fate… that sounds like white man’s talk. Come on. That bluecomics article gives many common sense reasons this name should not be used. Why fight it so hard is the real questions? Why should a football teams’ traditions be more important. So decorating yourself with eagle feathers for a football game while drinking beer and doing the tomahawk chop is not dishonoring of a people whose “fighting” was a small part of rich cultural traditions? As the article said would we stand a German team honoring holocaust victims by naming a football team “The fighting Jews?” This is just totally unreasonable.

    By Nina on Feb 10, 2012

  11. “The majority of Native Amercians living in North Dakota LOVE the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.” Go on, give some quotes, some evidence. Please. Anyhow are the majority of Lakota people living in North Dakota? Shouldn’t there be unity in a decision and as I read it this is misinformation, most Lakota organizations oppose it. Sorry. I don’t care if you are from North Dakota. I am not ignorant. You are. It’s as easy to say for me as it is for you.

    By Anonymous on Feb 10, 2012

  12. The author brought up Florida St. and the Seminoles and wandered how the deal was made. The relationship began in 1975 and the Seminole Tribe of Florida has total control of everything. The women of the Tribe make new clothes every year. The man who portrays Osceola must conduct himself with dignity at all times, etc. Maybe UND,The Sioux and whoever else needs to should contact the Seminole Tribe of Florida for help.

    By John on Feb 10, 2012

  13. If you watch a Florida state football game you will see scores of young men stripped from the waist up with painted bodys and faces in stereotypical ‘war paint”. Also little fake head dresses and waving rubber tomahawks in the (also stereotypical) “tomahawk chop” while the whole stadium chants it’s (ditto) Indian war whoops..Quite a stark contrast to UND’s respectful use of Native imagery.. But, yes that’s right, we are the ones deemed hostile and abusive..The NCAA is a money hungry, power hungry, JOKE.

    By Martin on Feb 10, 2012

  14. If I remember correctly, the Irish for Notre Dame is in reference to us being a Catholic institution. There’s the whole connection between drunken Irishmen fighting, but I think the fighting part was in line with that whole “football as war” motif that so many sportswriters have used over the years.

    But then, I could totally be blowing smoke. The Fighting Irishman looks more Amish, anyway.

    By MJenks on Feb 10, 2012

  15. Hey NCAA I’m holding up one finger for you and it doesn’t mean I think the NCAA is #1

    By Tom Corbett on Feb 10, 2012

  16. With all the PC garbage all football teams will be named after in animate objects. This is the unmaking of America, people.

    From Michele Obama getting rid of King Sized Candy Bars to wounded burglars suing the houses they broke into, and were shot in.

    Why not call yourself the fighting pencils? Or would that offend those opposed to the use of wood? *BARF*

    By MJS on Mar 2, 2012

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