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Another designer puts spin on UND logo controversy

Graphic courtesy of Justin Nelson with getyourbeakon.com.

FARGO—UND's nickname change has inspired a handful of parodies in the last few months.

Shirts From Fargo has been selling merchandise online for about three weeks depicting the Fighting Sioux logo wearing a fake bird beak over the face, which owner Justin Nelson said is to encapsulate the current mood of Fighting Sioux fans.

"The beak really represents this new Fighting Hawks logo and and the actual Sioux emblem represents the generations and current Fighting Sioux fans that are going through this change," he told the Herald.

UND played as the Fighting Sioux for decades before the NCAA barred its members from using Native American imagery. The university retired the nickname and logo, after much controversy, in late 2012. After a series of public votes, Fighting Hawks was chosen in November as the school's new nickname though a corresponding logo has yet to be created.

Earlier this fall, Karl Larson, a UND alumnus and designer in Denver, started selling clothing that depicts the Fighting Sioux logo with its eyes squinted and tongue sticking out. Soon after, clothing with the phrase "F'N Hawks" also appeared online after a hockey scoreboard used the phrase.

Nelson is a 30-year-old UND hockey fan from the Fargo-Moorhead area and met 33-year-old designer Adam Wiedman through professional networking and mutual friends.

Nelson repeated something written on the Get Your Beak On website; he went through the five stages of grief when the Fighting Sioux nickname was retired. But now Nelson said he sees the opportunity in the situation and understands why the NCAA banned Native American imagery.

Wiedman, a creative director and designer for Botlink in Fargo who also does freelance work, said in an email his connection to UND is his wife, who along with her family are UND hockey fans.

"I designed this piece with the sole intent of showing UND's haphazard attempt at pacifying a particular voice," he said. "I completely understand that the logo needed to be changed and 100 percent support the sentiments of the tribes, but I feel that the processes leading up to the decision were handled poorly."

Shirts From Fargo sells other locally-oriented shirts online, including one with the downtown Fargo sign on it, one that says "Far Bro" and another that says "Yeah like the movie," to name a few.

Nelson said the "Get Your Beak On!" shirts, available at getyourbeakon.com, haven't made a large profit but are selling reasonably well.

This month, UND issued its request for proposal in its search for a designer to create the new Fighting Hawks logo. The university wants the design finalized during summer 2016 for official introduction next fall.

UND, which holds the trademark on the Fighting Sioux image, sent Larson a cease and desist letter in September concerning his humorous take on the logo. Larson refuted it with the help of legal counsel and said in a Dec. 20 email Dec. 20 that he hadn't heard back from UND.

Wiedman said he thought he would receive a cease and desist letter from UND but hasn't. However, he said lawyers have contacted him, asking him to keep them in mind if should UND eventually take action.

"I certainly expected that it would be shared on social media, but definitely didn't expect it to be shared as many times as it did," Wiedman said.

Nelson said he has no intention of causing a problem or creating controversy.

"I strongly believe if the new logo is done right and fans are in favor of it and they feel it's done the university justice then that logo alone will push our logo completely out the door," he said. "If they do it wrong it could increase our sales though."

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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