Illinois enters Final Four;
Chief's absence is news
The U.I. basketball team are having a great run, entering the final
four after a stunning comeback win against Arizona.
The high profile of the team, and by extension the school, has brought
a surprising amount of publicity to the chief, and the chief's
absence at the NCAA tournament games. With the increased attention
to the chief has come increasingly vocal arguments for or against
him, including a deluge of
A sampling from the last week:
(continued in right column)
- Final Four notes - Mascot matters -
Kansas City Star
"Over the last few years, the mascot has rarely ventured away from
home games, and school officials don't want to court controversy by
bringing Chief Illiniwek to St. Louis."
- Final Four Notebook: Illiniwek Stays Home -
New York Times
"Illinois will not bring Chief Illiniwek to the Final Four with the
cheerleaders and the pep band. But this is not a change of policy,
a spokesman for the athletic department said."
- The Illini should fight without Chief Illiniwek -
George Benge, Gannett News Service
"Where's Chief Illiniwek? He's missing in action, and that's a good thing."
- Indian mascot remains benched for Final Four -
"Chief Illiniwek, a student in Native American garb who performs a five-minute halftime show at Illinois home games, has not been at the NCAA tournament and will be absent from the Final Four."
- Illini Fever -
"Chief Illiniwek has been the school mascot at Illinois for decades,
but the NCAA says the Chief isn't welcome on the sidelines for the
season's biggest game."
- Three Cheers for Illinois not bringing its
outdated, racist mascot to the Final Four -
Salon.com - King Kaufman's Sports Daily
"Chief Illiniwek, the native American "symbol" of the University
of Illinois, won't be attending the Final Four.
Let's hear a cheer for that."
- A guide to St. Louis and the Final Four -
Dan O'Neill, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Where the Final Four is concerned, I stands for Illiniwek, as in Chief Illiniwek, who has been sidelined because of the political controversy over the use of the Indian mascot by the University of Illinois."
- Illini mascot will miss Final Four -
"Chief Illiniwek, a student in Native American garb who performs a five-minute halftime show at Illinois home games, has not been at the NCAA Tournament and will be absent from the Final Four."
Final four profit?
A significant but perhaps less obvious benefit to the presence
of the chief is the merchandise profit realized by the University
from licensing of the logo.
This is likely significant this year with the basketball team's
advancement to the final four (and now the tournament final).
Pictures courtesy Carol Spindel
Such clothing and other likenesses of chief illiniwek are
inevitably mentioned by those addressing the stereotypical
nature of the chief (see Prof. Gone's lecture, right
column) and by Native Americans opposed to the chief.
RetireTheChief hopes that the University will, one day,
retire the chief, and his likeness.
Chief debate moves to the courts
Protestors harassed at
Anti-chief protestors reported being harassed Saturday
outside the Edward Jones Dome at the UIUC-Louisville game.
Common statements included disbelief that alumni were
among them, being told to "get a job," and that the minimum
wage "was too much for them." It seems a sad counterpart to
a great team and great team performance.
Edward Jones Dome
over Illinois team"
The Illinois Chapter of the
National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media (NCRSM)
issued a statement last week calling attention to a "Dark cloud of racism"
over the school as the basketball team advances to the Final Four.
"A team this good deserves better," the statement says.
The press release addresses several points:
- Calls from Native American organizations for the chief to
- Arguments from national civil rights organizations;
- Concern expressed by the accreditation organization, the
North Central Association;
- Profit from sales of Illinois merchandise featuring the chief;
- Recent legal action
"Chief debate moves to the courts,"
The NCRSM congratulates the team while expressing regret that
they must play "under this dark cloud of racial stereotyping."
The full statement is available as
Should He Stay
Prof. Joseph Gone spoke at the UIUC Law School on Thursday, March 17
on the topic "Should he stay or should he go? Retiring the chief."
Dr. Gone, a UIUC graduate and Assistant Professor of
Psychology and American Culture at the University of Michigan,
discussed the chief in the context of stereotypes in the media
or Should he Go?
"Indian mascots continue the long tradition of 'Playing Indian'" -
Prof. Joseph Gone
Chief Illiniwek "a racial stereotype in an era in which no other
racial stereotypes are publically tolerated."
For excerpts of Prof. Gone's talk, please select from the following
movies and audio clips:
(continued from left column)
- 'Chief Illiniwek' to miss Final Four trip -
"Trouble seems to find the Chief, as Illinois has been the target of protests, demonstrations and lawsuits, which claim the figure perpetuates a racial stereotype and demeans Native Americans."
- Controversial mascot staying in Illinois during Final Four -
Kansas City Star
"Often, where there's the chief, there's trouble ...
the chief remains Illinois' official symbol - the university prefers he
not be called a mascot - but one that causes discomfort for the athletic
program and university as a whole."
- Illini mascot forced from tournament -
S. Shaw, Free N. Mexican
"The root of the controversy is Chief Illiniwek, a 78-year-old tradition in which a student dresses in buckskins and a fake war bonnet and dances at halftime shows for basketball games and other university sporting events."
- Mascot is Illinois' "Chief problem" -
"Whatever you call Chief Illiniwek, you will not be able to call it to his face this weekend when the Fighting Illini competes in the Final Four. The Chief attracts too much attention these days when he travels, mostly from protest groups and the media. So he will stay home in Champaign, Ill., presumably in his teepee."