U. of Illinois retires controversial mascot

The University of Illinois recently announced that they would retire their mascot of more than 80 years, Chief Illiniwek.
The change comes as a result of years of pressure from the NCAA and Native American tribes calling for the removal of the Chief and other American Indian related mascots.

In the summer of 2005, the NCAA deemed the University of Illinois’ Chief Illiniwek, along with 17 other collegiate mascots, as “hostile or abusive” forms of Native American imagery and banned these schools from hosting postseason events.
Others mascots originally included in this ban were the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux and the Utes of the University of Utah.

Two other schools included in the ban, Carthage College and Midwestern State University, have since dropped their nicknames, the Redmen and Indians, respectively, along with the University of Illinois.

During halftime of the last University of Illinois men’s basketball home game of the season, Chief Illiniwek made his final appearance.

The chief is portrayed by a student clad in buckskin, a feathered headdress and war paint and is known for doing a dance during the intermissions or before University of Illinois basketball and football games.

In 1993, St. John’s changed its nickname from the Redmen, a name that it had used since the 1920s, and which originally referred to the red uniforms worn by the school’s athletic teams, to the Red Storm.

In 1994, Marquette University switched its “Marquette Warriors” moniker to the Marquette Golden Eagles.

The retirement of Chief Illiniwek has been met with disapproval from the University of Illinois community.

During the last dance of the Chief, numerous University of Illinois students wore black t-shirts in mourning of their lost mascot.

Also, many Facebook groups have been dedicated in memory of the retired mascot, including “We’ll Never Forget Chief Illiniwek,” a group with over 3,800 members. In the profile of this group, a link to an online petition is provided with more than 12,000 signatures in an effort to save the Chief. The goal is to reach 16,000 to show the University of Illinois board of trustees in time for their next meeting in mid-March.