Hockey Team Warns UND Over Using "Roughriders" Nickname


UPDATE: This post originally referred to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders as a professional team. It’s not, the USHL is an amateur league.

If you thought the dumpster fire that is President Robert Kelley’s nickname transition process at the University of North Dakota couldn’t possibly get any more convoluted and inane, think again.

It seems there may be some serious legal ramifications for at least two of the nickname finalists that the nickname committee hasn’t fully considered despite sending a list of names out for a vote.

Tony Sdao, a UND alumnus who played for the university’s football team, owns the Cedar Rapids Roughriders team in the United States Hockey League. In a letter to the University of North Dakota, mailed and also delivered in person, an attorney representing Sdao is warning the university over the potential use of the Roughriders nickname which was one of choices announced by the university to be put to voters.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter, which you can read in full below:


“We are aware of the letter and its contents has been taken into account by the lawyer — now with the Attorney General’s Office — who has expertise in trademarking and licensure and who has been advising the University and the committees during the nickname process,” UND spokesman Peter Johnson told me (I obtained the letter via an open records request sent to Johnson).

“The letter was conveyed twice, once via mail and once hand delivered (with the note which you see on one of the pages) by a retired UND faculty member who is a friend of Mr. Sdao (and a friend of mine),” Johnson continued.

The tone of the letter isn’t very threatening. It certainly seems as though Mr. Sdao is open to some sort of an arrangement with UND, though if his rights to the nickname are valid a licensing agreement would likely be a significant unforeseen cost for the university.

What’s really at issue is why President Robert Kelley’s ponderous, expensive nickname transition process didn’t catch this.¬†Karl Goehring, President of the UND Nickname Committee, told Chris Berg in a July interview that his committee – which has cost taxpayers, in his own estimate, “north of $200,000” – wasn’t certain what the state’s legal rights would be when using the Northstars nickname either.

Northstars, along with Roughriders, is another of the nickname finalists. Below is the video of Goehring, with the pertinent question and answer coming around the 7:15 mark. It seems, given the time and expense of this process, that the legal issues around these nicknames would have been ironed out.