UND President Offers Weak Argument Against Maintaining Nickname Moratorium


Today Rep. Scott Louser’s bill to continue the moratorium on a new nickname for the University of North Dakota was heard in committee.

The bill is HB1155 and would extend the now-expired moratorium on a new nickname (which ended on January 1st) through July 1st of 2017.

It was heard before the Education Committee today, and UND President Robert Kelley weighed in on the matter. According to this Associated Press report of the hearing, Kelley’s argument against extending the moratorium boiled down to two points:

  1. Extending the moratorium doesn’t allow the university to move on from the “Fighting Sioux” logo/nickname
  2. Extending the moratorium hurts merchandise sales for the university

Conspicuously absent from these arguments is any indication that it would be problematic for the university, in terms of sanctions from the NCAA, to maintain no official nickname.

As to the arguments Kelley did make, I’d suggest that any harm to merchandise sales is a poor argument after Kelley and his fellow travelers fought for years to be rid of the nickname. The “Fighting Sioux” logo and nickname has often been cited as one of the most popular in collegiate sports. Getting rid of it hurt merchandise sales, yet that was never an acceptable argument for keeping it. So why should merchandise sales be an argument against moving on?

As far as moving on from the “Fighting Sioux,” what evidence do we have that any sizable majority of people not in UND’s administration actually want to move on? UND games are still full of people wearing Sioux merchandise. Any sizable public gathering in North Dakota is likely to feature Sioux merchandise. My friends on the state’s Native American reservations – particularly the Spirit Lake reservation – say that Sioux merchandise is still common there.

Even the state’s public officials – up to and including left-wing Senator Heidi Heitkamp, self-styled champion of Native American issues – are not shy about wearing the “Fighting Sioux” logo and nickname.

I think that North Dakotans wanted to move on from the “Fighting Sioux” logo only insofar as maintaining it officially would hurt the university’s standing with the NCAA. But if keeping it unofficially through a moratorium on adopting a new logo/nickname doesn’t threaten the university’s standing, I think most would prefer a moratorium.

And it makes sense. Kelley’s administration is expending a truly silly amount of money on transitioning to a new nickname. Why spend any more money? Let the university move on with no nickname at all.

Honestly, the only problem I see with Louser’s bill is that it should be amended to be a permanent moratorium.