UI faculty expresses opposition to Chicago's Olympic bid

UI faculty expresses opposition to Chicago's Olympic bid

CHAMPAIGN – If the University of Illinois is unfit to host NCAA championship games because of its use of Native American imagery, it is also unfit to host the 2016 Olympics, wrote almost two dozen University of Illinois professors to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the U.S. Olympic Committee chairman and chief executive officer, 22 UI professors stated if the UI does not get rid of its mascot, the Olympic Committee should look elsewhere for a host.

The NCAA Executive Committee announced this spring the UI could not host postseason events unless it gets rid of Chief Illiniwek. Last August the athletic association issued the policy prohibiting postseason competition at colleges or universities with "hostile or abusive" racial, ethnic or national origin mascots or symbols. The UI was on that list.

"Until the State of Illinois honors this request and abolishes its race-base mascot, we would urge the US Olympic Committee to look elsewhere for its 2016 Summer Olympic host," the letter stated.

"The Olympics is a worldwide celebration of athletic competition, sportsmanship and humanity, bringing people together in peace to respect universal moral principles. We question whether the open toleration and support of race-based imagery in sports exhibited by the Governor of Illinois, many Illinois legislators and the Trustees of the state's flagship university coincides with such principles," the letter stated.

Twenty-two faculty signed the letter. Copies were sent to Emil Jones, President of the Illinois State Senate, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, heads of the NCAA, the NAACP and the UI Board of Trustees.

UI spokesman Tom Hardy said the faculty are entitled to their opinion and to express it.

"It is standard operating procedure for activists to seek attention by bootstrapping their issue to a prominent subject in the headlines, regardless of how far-fetched it seems," Hardy said.

The UI supports Chicago's bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, Hardy said. UI President B. Joseph White is a member of the Chicago 2016 Evaluation Committee.

UI Professor Stephen Kaufman, one of the letter signers, said they sent the letter because the UI Board of Trustees "has failed over a period of 16 years to be constructively responsible to faculty of the university, the NCA (North Central Association) to the (UI) athletic department," regarding resolution of Chief Illiniwek.