Thursday, February 22, 2007

No more Chief Illiniwek

The University of Illinois has finally retired its mascot, Chief Illiniwek. This contentious figure is one of the most prominent examples of a college using Native American symbolism to "honor" Native American heritage, but does so in such a typically sloppy and hamhanded way as to be remarkably insulting to Native Americans. The University resisted the retirement for years after clear objections to it were raised, culminating eventually in 2005 with an NCAA determination that the mark violated new NCAA rules forbidding the use of Native American imagery. The University resisted that determination, but finally gave in: last night was the "Chief"'s last appearance at a University function.

I'm pleased to see the University finally discontinue the use of this offensive symbol. Apparently I'm in the minority on this: apparently at his last appearance hundreds of students attended the final performance in black t-shirts, and the local media coverage has been almost in the nature of an obituary. During the "Badger Sports Minute" on the radio during my evening commute, I got to hear about why it is inappropriate to expect sports figures to provide moral guidance, using as evidence for this contention the massive cheating that took place during the leadup to the Daytona 500. Remind me never to do business with Badger Insurance.