Those who follow the issue of Native American sports mascot controversies know that the University of North Dakota recently filed a lawsuit against the NCAA, suing for the chance to continue using their controversial “Fighting Sioux” logo. The University of North Dakota is in quite a fix, since it accepted the gift (with many strings) of a hockey arena from Las Vegas casino owner Ralph Engelstad, who had the structure decorated (in the manner of Las Vegas tastelessness) with numerous logos, some in stone.

However, the most interesting reporting about the timing of the lawsuit was not in news coverage, but in an editorial in the local “Grand Forks Herald,” written by Mike Jacobs. Trying, like a polite North Dakotan, to refrain from overt criticism of the state’s attorney general, Jacobs made some insightful observations about the timing of the lawsuit, as follows:

“It might be a coincidence that UND’s lawsuit against the NCAA was filed Friday.  

“It might be a coincidence that hundreds of alumni were on campus for Homecoming, traditionally a time that’s supercharged with team spirit.

“It might be a coincidence that UND celebrated the fifth anniversary of Ralph Engelstad Arena, the nation’s premier college hockey facility that was the gift of a fervent supporter of the Sioux nickname. It might be a coincidence that the election is just a month away, and that the man filing the lawsuit is a candidate for re-election.

“It might all be a coincidence.

“Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said it was all a coincidence, and he’s an honorable man, so we’ll put aside our suspicions and concede that it was all a coincidence.

“Even if it wasn’t a coincidence, it’s hard to blame UND for using Homecoming and the anniversary of the arena to launch the lawsuit. Nor can a politician be blamed for grandstanding during an election campaign.

“There’s another, more telling, coincidence in the date. The lawsuit was filed Oct. 6, which is designated as Native American Day in North Dakota.

“Probably this coincidence was unintentional. Probably nobody involved in the lawsuit knew about the observance.

“That speaks volumes about North Dakota’s racial climate, of course. It’s not hostile to Native people as much as it is ignorant and indifferent.”



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