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OUR OPINION: Whatever the circumstance, UND must retire Sioux nickname

You might wonder, what more is there to say about UND's use of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo? Well, at least this: The argument isn't over. Nor is the outcome clear. Yet, UND must retire the nickname and logo as soon as possible. Here's th...

You might wonder, what more is there to say about UND's use of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo?

Well, at least this:

The argument isn't over.

Nor is the outcome clear.

Yet, UND must retire the nickname and logo as soon as possible.

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Here's the situation, by way of review:

The Legislature has repealed a law that required use of the nickname and logo. UND plans to "substantially retire" the logo by the end of the year.

That's the outcome that opponents of the nickname and logo have sought for more than a decade. It's the outcome that the NCAA essentially mandated by imposing sanctions if UND continued use of the nickname.

It's not the final outcome, however, because supporters of the nickname have come up with what football fans call "a Hail Mary pass."

Two of them, actually. One is legal. One is political.

The legal challenge comes from The Committee for Understanding and Respect at Spirit Lake. In a referendum, the Spirit Lake community backed use of the nickname and logo. The committee is joined by supporters of the nickname at Standing Rock. The tribal council there has opposed the nickname and logo, and there hasn't been a vote of the community there.

Essentially, these parties allege that the NCAA has discriminated against them by denying the validity of ceremonies that they say gave UND the right to use the nickname and logo.

The political challenge comes from the same quarter. This is a petition drive that could result in a statewide vote on the question.

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Two of them, actually. One is a referral of the Legislature's decision to repeal the nickname law. The other is a constitutional amendment that would require its use.

No one can know how these efforts will end.

Nor can any North Dakotan deny supporters of the nickname the right to take these actions. Popular democracy is entrenched in the state, and it's been used effectively by interest groups of many stripes.

Still, it's essential that UND continue with its efforts to retire the nickname. Continuing its use means a range of sanctions that will damage UND's athletic programs and its reputation.

The Legislature ordered that no new nickname be adopted for three years, a reasonable cooling-off period.

Probably, there won't be much cooling off during the period. Lawsuits and petition drives have a tendency to enflame passions.

UND's challenge will be to retire the nickname and logo honorably and gracefully, while the legal and political storms continue. Only that will guarantee UND's standing among American universities on and off the field and on and off the ice.

Circumstances may change, and new circumstance may permit different responses, but these are the objective conditions on the ground.

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What's left to say about the nickname is simply this: These processes will run their courses, but UND's own course is clear. Rise above the tumult. Retire the nickname.

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