Resolution to N. Dakota School Nickname Dispute Still Seems Far Off
Kevin Conlon; Phil Gast Cnn, St. Joseph News-Press
(CNN) -- 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 (education) is becoming collateral damage."
More damage comes 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.
The NCAA reiterated its stance on sanctions Wednesday, saying the "university is subject to the terms of the policy if it uses the logo and nickname."
"Those terms include not being able to host NCAA championship events and a prohibition against using the nickname and imagery on uniforms for student-athletes, along with cheerleaders, (the) mascot or band members, in any NCAA championships," said Erik Christianson, NCAA director of media relations, in a written statement.
"The NCAA sanctions are not a good thing," Irby said. "I have never seen the NCAA back down."
In 2007, the North Dakota Board of Higher Education agreed to drop the Fighting Sioux nickname by August 15, 2011, in accordance with the NCAA's policy.
But that move was met with opposition.
The state Legislature in early 2011 passed a law requiring the university to use the Fighting Sioux nickname. That law, however, was repealed in November 2011 when legislators approved a bill that allowed the school to stop using the moniker.
North Dakotans who favor the mascot responded with a two-pronged strategy.
On one had they are calling for the state constitution to be changed to stipulate the use of the Fighting Sioux name. If certified, that proposal would be on the November ballot. Supporters have until August to submit signatures to gain certification.
The other effort calls for voters to decide in June whether to repeal the law that permitted the school to drop the name. Petitions backing that move were filed Tuesday with Secretary of State Al Jaeger.
The state requires 13,452 certified signatures to put a law repeal issue before voters. …