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Families adjusted as Central went through its nickname change

Somewhere in Glenn Hansen's Grand Forks home is a baseball cap with the words "Redskin Forever" embroidered on it. The 63-year-old hasn't worn it for a long time; he doesn't know exactly where the cap is.

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Glenn Hansen, a former NBA player and Grand Forks Central High School standout, holds his framed basketball jersey that is displayed at Grand Forks Central with other sports memorabilia in a trophy case in the gymnasium. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Somewhere in Glenn Hansen's Grand Forks home is a baseball cap with the words "Redskin Forever" embroidered on it. The 63-year-old hasn't worn it for a long time; he doesn't know exactly where the cap is.

The sentiment hasn't changed, however.

"I'll always be a Redskin,'' said Hansen, a 1970 Central graduate who was one of the school's all-time great basketball players. "I graduated from Grand Forks Central as a Redskin. I was so disappointed when the name was dropped.''

More than two decades ago, Central High School went through the same nickname agonies  UND has endured since the Fighting Sioux nickname became a controversy and ultimately was dropped. That led to the current process of finding a new nickname.

The Hansen and Joe Ford families were among those who went through the entire process at Central.


Glenn Hansen was a Redskin. His son, Josh, was a sophomore the first year the school dropped the nickname. He was a basketball player without a nickname his first year and was a Maroon and Grey as a junior and senior, graduating in 1994.

The school adopted the Central nickname at the start of the 1994-95 school year. Josh's sisters, Jodi and Jozy , were athletes on Knights teams.

"I was cheering for the Knights when Jodi and Jozy played,'' Glenn Hansen said. "But, in the back of my head, it was still the Redskins. I probably blurted out 'Redskins' a few times when I was in the stands.''

Joe Ford can relate. Ford was an athlete at Central who graduated in 1971. His son Chris was a classmate and teammate of Josh Hansen. Two of his children, Joe and Kelly, were Knights when they competed in Central sports.

“We were the Redskins,’’ Joe Ford said. “We were upset about it when the change was made. We didn’t think we were being disrespectful to anybody.

“But I understand it now. I can see where people who were against (the nickname) were coming from. You just had to move on. But it took awhile.’’

At least Glenn Hansen and Joe Ford had a nickname with which to associate. For Josh Hansen, that turned out to be a void in his basketball career.

The 1994 Central graduate said he didn't associate "Redskins'' with what his father accomplished in the school's athletics. In junior high, he said, he looked forward to attending Central High, though that had nothing to do with the nickname. But he wound up missing the identity of the nickname.


"When I was in ninth grade, that was the last year of the Redskins,'' Josh Hansen said. "It was a school nickname I never had.

"But when I got to high school, (without a school nickname), you felt like you missed out on that legacy. You felt like you missed out on the part of the history of the school.''

While Glenn Hansen professes to be a Redskin forever, "I could understand the change,'' his son said. "You can see that it was offensive and outdated. I wasn't mad about the change.''

On the other hand, Josh Hansen is disappointed to see the Fighting Sioux nickname dropped at UND, where he played basketball for three seasons. “There is an attachment there for me probably because I was playing there and associated with the nickname,’’ Josh Hansen said.

For Kelly Ford Wilber and Joe Ford Jr., there were no attachments to the Redskins nickname. They never played as Redskins. Joe Ford was a basketball teammate of his brother, Chris, and Josh Hansen during the 1993-94 season. The next season, Central was the Knights.

“Maroon and Grey -- I didn’t like that at all,’’ he said. “But I didn’t think it was that big of a deal when we voted on a nickname. The Knights did give us more of an identity.’’

Kelly Wilber remembers seeing the clothing and caps with “Redskin Forever’’ on them.

“It wasn’t something we talked about,’’ Wilber, a 1998 Central graduate, said. “I couldn’t relate to it. I don’t remember Central as the Redskins.


“I do remember my brothers playing in the years when they were part of the Maroon and Grey. I was glad a permanent nickname was decided by the time I was in high school. You could start building a tradition with it. When they were the Maroon and Grey, there was no nickname, no mascot, nothing like that. We were proud to be Knights.’’

But the Redskins nickname was hard to let go of for those who wore the moniker.

Glenn Hansen had a basketball career that took him to two stops at NCAA Division I programs and four teams in an NBA career. Of all the teams with which he was associated, the nicknames of the Redskins and the LSU Tigers are his fondest. “That’s probably because those were special times, special memories for me, when I played for those teams,’’ he said.

But even Glenn Hansen, a self-proclaimed Redskin forever, has mellowed regarding the changing of the Central nickname 21 years ago.

“Dragging and clawing, you gradually accept it,’’ Glenn Hansen said. “I probably hung onto it until my daughters graduated. I didn’t have any kids in school after that for awhile. Maybe you just don’t give a hoot then.

“In my mind, it always will be Redskins. I think everybody who went through Central back then feels that way. There was a frustration level of not understanding why (the change). You just have to get over it and move on. Change is inevitable. You have to accept it.’’

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