For Immediate Release
The NCAA staff review committee has retained the University of Illinois, Champaign on the list of colleges and universities subject to restrictions on the use of Native American mascots, names and imagery at NCAA championships.
In its review of the particular circumstances regarding Illinois, the NCAA staff review committee found no new information relative to the mascot, known as 'Chief Illiniwek' or the logo mark used by some athletics teams that depicts a Native American in feathered headdress, to remove the university from the list.
The staff review committee found that over the last decade, the volume and frequency of contentiousness around Chief Illiniwek has increased. Those who oppose continued use of Chief Illiniwek have grown in number and have found national platforms for their argument that the broad range of Native Americans perceives the Chief's 'fancy dance' a demeaning interpretation of their own customs and traditions. Media accounts, letters and e-mail continue to document instances of hostile behavior toward those who oppose the use of Chief Illiniwek.
Although not included in the university's review request, the issue of the logomark used by some athletics teams that depicts a Native American in feathered headdress adds to the use of Native American imagery that the broadest range of indigenous tribes and peoples find offensive and insulting. As the staff review committee has noted in previous writings, by continuing to use Native American nicknames, mascots and imagery, institutions assume responsibility over an environment which they cannot fully control. Fans, opponents and others can and will exhibit behaviors that indeed are hostile or abusive to Native Americans. Despite good intentions and best efforts, the stereotyping of Native Americans into narrow images is an undeniable consequence of choosing such names and symbols.
Based on its own research, discussions with relevant Native American groups and information provided by the university, the staff committee concurs with Illinois that the term 'Illini' is closely related to the name of the state and not directly associated with Native Americans. The nicknames 'Illini' or 'Fighting Illini' are not reasons for including the university in the August 2005 policy, and the review committee accepts the university's appeal on this point. However, because the term 'Illini' has become associated with Native Americans through its use in conjunction with Chief Illiniwek, the committee strongly recommends that the university undertake an educational effort to help those among its constituents and in the general public understand the origin of the term and the lack of any direct association with Native Americans.
The review committee does not mandate that the University of Illinois, Champaign change its mascot or logo, but as a member of the NCAA, Illinois is expected to adhere to the NCAA's principle of non-discrimination and promote an atmosphere of respect for and sensitivity to the dignity of every person. At an ever increasing rate of occurrence and volume, Native Americans have expressed their objection to the use of names, terms, imagery and mascots associated with athletics teams. The Executive Committee's policy and the staff review committee's application of the policy have consistently held that good intentions and well-meaning efforts by schools cannot by themselves overcome the objection of those being characterized by such terms.
The NCAA's position on the use of Native American mascots, names and imagery has not changed, and the NCAA remains committed to ensuring an atmosphere of respect and sensitivity for all who participate in and attend our championships.
The University of Illinois, Champaign can file an appeal with the NCAA Executive Committee. This appeal must be submitted in writing. Requests for reviews from other institutions will be handled on a case-by-case basis in the order in which they are received.