This week in North Dakota, where all news is news, the state legislature passed a law mandating that "the intercollegiate athletic teams sponsored by the [U]niversity of North Dakota shall be known as the [U]niversity of North Dakota fighting Sioux." Yes, the logo and nickname that the NCAA deemed were "disparaging" and sought to have removed from competing institutions six years ago is now required to live on, in all of its tremulously insensitive glory. Bill No. 1263, introduced by Rep. Al Carlson (R-Fargo, seen above) reads [PDF here]:
Neither the university of North Dakota nor the state board of higher education may take any action to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname or the fighting Sioux logo in use on January 1, 2011. Any actions taken by the state board of higher education and the university of North Dakota before the effective date of this Act to discontinue the use of the fighting Sioux nickname and logo are preempted by this Act. If the national collegiate athletic association takes any action to penalize the university of North Dakota for using the fighting Sioux nickname or logo, the attorney general shall consider filing a federal antitrust claim against that association.
The NCAA has stirred to the semiotic call of duty, and they're not impressed. Bernard Franklin, executive VP of the NCAA, wrote in a letter to UND president Robert Kelley that the school "must follow an agreement it made in October 2007 to discontinue using the nickname and logo by Aug. 15, 2011, unless it received approval from North Dakota's Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes." The tribes remain split on the issue; Spirit Lake's governing council endorsed the logo but Standing Rock disproves of its use.
Franklin's letter made clear that, in spite of the legislators' intentions, the NCAA won't back down on its stance. If the university continues its use of the mascot after the August ultimatum, the AP reports, then its teams will likely be banned from "hosting NCAA postseason games" and its teams will not be permitted "to wear the nickname and logo on its uniforms in postseason contests." (Which, we imagine, is really only a threat to its hockey teams.)
NCAA officials will reportedly meet with North Dakota state legislators and with Gov. Jack Dalrymple soon. We've seen no further mention on that federal antitrust threat included in the bill, and it's unclear whether or not representatives from the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock tribes will receive invites to that meeting.
"I think the citizens of our state view this quite differently than they do," Rep. Carlson said of the NCAA. "We want to know the reasons why, and we want them to listen to our side of the story."
Or at least, a certain side of the story.