The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux find themselves in a tough situation; one that you could argue is terribly unfair to the university, their fans, and their attempts to just run their athletic program.
On Side A you have the NCAA, who has banned the use of all Native American imagery for their member schools in tournament play – which includes the Fighting Sioux.
On Side B you have the Government of the State of North Dakota who have enacted a law stating the University of North Dakota MUST retain the Fighting Sioux name.
What is a team to do?
“We are walking a tightrope here, we will do everything we can to walk that fine line. We will still be competing officially as the Fighting Sioux, but you won’t hear any ‘Here come the Fighting Sioux’ announcements or see the logo in the program.”, says UND president Robert Kelley.
The next test comes this weekend with the UND men’s hockey team during which the team will be wearing new uniforms; uniforms excluding the team nickname and logo. The women’s team had to compete in similar uniforms this past weekend. NCAA rules state that if the team goes out wearing the usual team uniforms, pictured above, they will automatically forfeit the game.
How does North Dakota’s Sioux tribes feel about the college using the name, in reality shouldn’t their opinion be the only one that matters in this whole case?
Well, in 2007 the university agreed to abide by NCAA policy and drop the name and logo unless the Sioux tribes endorsed their use. The Spirit Lake Sioux tribe welcomed the name, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe did not – although historians and fans contend that this tribe previously gave their blessing during a religious ceremony in 1969.
The state legislature does not force the team to use the name or logo on the uniforms; just that the school officially retain the nickname. The NCAA does not allow the use of any logos on official team publications or uniforms – including cheerleader outfits and even luggage tags. In fact no UND team photo could appear in the women’s tournament program because the photo still featured the old uniforms with the Fighting Sioux logo.
At this point it appears fans are still allowed to wear the old gear to games but who knows how far the NCAA could eventually go with their regulations.
“It’s a fine line,” Kelley continued, “We certainly don’t want to violate the law, and we will not violate the law. But officially, by state law, we are the Fighting Sioux.”