At State Farm Center: A lot of hubbub, some talking, no Chief

At State Farm Center: A lot of hubbub, some talking, no Chief

What's your take? Submit a Letter to the Editor here

CHAMPAIGN — After all the pregame angst, a call to show support for the controversial Chief Illiniwek symbol at Thursday's Illinois-Purdue men's basketball game was fairly uneventful.

The "Paint the Hall Chief" event drew extra Chief shirts in the crowd, some pro-Chief flyers, 40 protesters outside and a prank, but no appearance by the Chief.

Event organizers had asked Illini fans to wear Chief apparel to the game. Anti-Chief activists, who consider it a racist mascot, organized a protest and called on UI officials to cancel the event.

The current Chief portrayer, Omar Cruz, was at the game but did not don his costume and appear at halftime, as he has for other games.

"We never had any intention of making an appearance," said Ivan "Alex" Dozier, a former Chief portrayer and board member for the Honor the Chief Society, which promoted the event.

Instead, Dozier ducked into a bathroom where the Chief usually changes and came out wearing an orange boa and sunglasses. He then took a photo with Raneem Shamseldin, president of Illinois Student Government, who had gathered nearby with other protesters in case the Chief appeared.

"I think it was great," Shamseldin said afterward. "Mission accomplished — no Chief."

Before the game, about 20 protesters stood on each side of the main entrance of the State Farm Center, chanting and holding anti-Chief signs such as "Real people, not symbols."

Eric Schacht of Champaign held a megaphone and led chants, including "The Chief is racist," as Illini fans — and some puzzled Purdue fans — streamed into the game.

"I've lived in Champaign my whole life and I'm an alumnus of the law school," Schact said. "I used to think the Chief was cool, but then I realized it didn't matter what I thought. It matters how the people who are offended feel."

Brian Green, a fan dressed in a Chief shirt, couldn't disagree more.

"At this point, we just have a block 'I' as our mascot," he said. "I need more than that."

Kathy and Dan McKenzie, who drove the car carrying Chancellor Robert Jones that anti-Chief activists blocked during the UI homecoming parade in October, said while they couldn't support the Chief at the parade, they'll always wear their Chief gear to games.

"I do not at all see him as a racist symbol," Kathy McKenzie said. "We've seen the Chief dance and I get emotional when I see it because it's so respectful. To us Chief supporters, we won't go down without a fight."

A group of students from Miami University in Ohio who were attending a engineering conference at the UI were confused about the hubbub as they headed to the game. Until mid-1997, they pointed out, their university had a Native American nickname — the Redskins. At the urging of an Oklahoma-based member of the Miami Tribe, the name was changed to the RedHawks, as it remains today.

Inside, the UI chapter of Turning Point USA, a conservative political group, distributed orange flyers with the Chief logo to fans, who held them up during an early timeout. The group had printed 500, but at least 200 were confiscated by State Farm Center staff, said group member Joel Valdez. State Farm Center's policy doesn't allow fans to bring signs, banners or flags into the game.

A notice reminding fans of that rule, and asking them to be courteous to others, was taped onto all the seats in the lower seating area. It asked fans to conduct themselves with "honor, dignity and respect" and "treat others the way you would like to be treated."

Members of the Orange Krush student fan group wore a variety of orange T-shirts, but not an unusual number with the Chief logo. Section leaders Daniel Friedman and Will Smith said there was no official communication to members to wear Chief apparel.

As the first half ended, the band immediately began playing the Three-in-One halftime music, which includes the Chief's former dance music. That music is normally played after the halftime show.

Some fans looked around the arena to see if the Chief might appear and yelled "Chieeef!" as usual when the music ended.

But they shouted louder at the announcement that the Illini's three-pointer at the halftime buzzer had been waved off because time ran out.

UI officials monitoring the crowd reported no incidents at the game.

"I'm really proud of the way our students handled themselves at halftime," said campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

Dozier said he was pleased with fans' response to the event, saying "when it comes to supporters versus protesters, it's hundreds to handfuls."

Shamseldin called the protest "a huge success."

"Our point was to ensure that the Chief stops attending events," she said, as Native American students don't feel comfortable going to games where the Chief appears.

Protester Lauren Kirby, a UI junior in communications, said she and other Native Americans do not support the Chief. She said the people who should be honored are those with ancestral claims to this land, the Peoria tribe of Oklahoma Indians.

"The university's decision to remove the symbol of Chief Illiniwek was in 2007, yet we still see the Chief all over campus and at university-affiliated events," she said. "I don't think that's right. ... I think we need a new mascot and I think this needs to be resolved by the administration."

While the discussion with a few Chief supporters grew heated, Shamseldin said, most fans just walked by and some stopped to talk.

"A lot of people got our message than Native American imagery needs to be shared in an non-racist way," Shamseldin said.

Emily Kerlin, a UI graduate and teacher who grew up in Champaign-Urbana, said she joined the protest because she's weary of the debate.

"The NCAA has ruled that this is not an acceptable mascot. This has been drawn out way longer than it should have been. I'm all for tradition, but when tradition bumps up against what's socially just, what makes sense," she said, then it's time to change.

"So many other universities have gotten rid of these mascots. We're just dragging our heels — for what reason, I don't know. But it's time to get rid of it."

Graduate Employees Organization Co-President Gus Wood said he wanted to "stand up against racial humiliation" of Native Americans. He said the Chief is a dehumanizing symbol and compared Thursday's protest to the struggle between the GEO and the university.

"It's a sign that the university is ignoring people on campus," he said.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
IlliniwekMerica wrote on February 23, 2018 at 8:02 am

The protest was inconsequential and very easy to just walk by and ignore. I'm not sure what their goal is, I know Kauffman's letter (signed by 16,000 other people... oh wait it was 16) stated their goal was to end discriminatory behaviors including:

- Performances by the Chief. That didn't happen, and only happens like once or twice a season and its just some yahoo walking around the 200 level seats.

- The band playing Indian music. That.. never happens? I know he means the 3 in 1 but I reject the argument that that's cultural appropriation of "indian" music.

- Crowd yelling Chief. It gets quieter every year, and it only gets louder when Kauffman drums up the vitriol. 

So they accomplished nothing, because there's really nothing left to accomplish besides having the University drop their trademark on the logo, and that will never happen. I guess there's still the vague "denying Native Americans equal opportunity education and enjoyment of public facilities", but that's not really a defined goal, especially since we all have federally protected rights to educational opportunities and enjoyment is subjective. They can continue to thought police people, it won't work and all that happens is you get to stand out in the cold with runny signs from the rain and get yelled at by 70 year olds in chief jackets. 

CommonSenseless wrote on February 23, 2018 at 8:02 am

No, you are wrong.  Shamalamadingdong said it was a success. And Schacht was successful in virtue signaling, in person, in front of a young and naive group of co-eds.  Is that what a mid-life crisis looks like?  

max_zilla wrote on February 23, 2018 at 3:02 pm
Profile Picture

"Shamseldin". Not surprising how you want to support the Chief but then use racist dog-whistle garbage like that when referring to actual Native American people. Even my grandma knows how to copy/paste if you didn't learn basic spelling.

byrdslover wrote on February 23, 2018 at 9:02 am

The protest frightened the "chief" from appearing.  Total and complete surrender.  You will never see that clown at an Illinois sporting event again.  

Grow up.  Get over it.

wayward wrote on February 23, 2018 at 11:02 am

Sorry, but the only victory last night belonged to Purdue.

CallSaul wrote on February 23, 2018 at 12:02 pm

It's been more than ten years. The racist old defunct ex mascot won't ever be the school's mascot again.

Not ever.

And yet the bitter old monomaniacal chicken feather 'chief' clingers still regularly force confrontations like this by ginning up an endless parade of these kinds of silly stunts...

They seem unable to let it go...

But the sooner the old defunct racist ex mascot clingers can bring themselves to accept reality and move on, the soooner we can all finally move on from this already closed and shameful chapter of the school's history... 

Illiniwek222 wrote on February 23, 2018 at 1:02 pm

If Illiniwek supporters haven't given up after 11 years, they surely will not give up after the recent anti-Chiefer antics, such as disruption of the Homecoming parade, crazed Rosenstein filming in the men's room and Kaufman's absurd letter, signed by all of 16 people, demanding government intervention in last night's festivities.

40 anti-Chiefers managed to show up last night as compared to literally thousands in Chief attire. It's only a matter of time before the Chief returns. Tick tock.

CallSaul wrote on February 23, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Of course there are those who still bitterly cling to the moldy old racist and permanently defunct ex mascot...

Just as there are still cranks who think Bush/Cheney were great co presidents, who believe NIxon was framed and who ridiculously claim Joe McCarthy was an American hero instead of the paranoid drunken proto fascist lying con man he was.

The racist old chicken feather 'chief' will never be the school's mascot again.

Each day sees fewer people who are still obsessed with holding on to that racist old stereotype.

Each day sees us move further and further away from that shameful racist old ex mascot...

So yes, absolutely: tick...tock...tick...tock...tick...

Illiniwek222 wrote on February 23, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Regarding fewer people each day clinging to a position, that seems to apply to the 16 people Kaufman rounded up to sign his letter and the barely 40 anti-Chiefers present at last night's game.

CallSaul wrote on February 23, 2018 at 1:02 pm

And look at the quivering puddles of goo all the chicken feather 'chief' clingers have melted into in the face of just a handful of people pointing out that the moldy old ex mascot is racist.

They clearly made their presence felt.

More people didn't show up because the majority of people recognize that the matter was settled over a decade ago when the university dumped the racist old defunct ex mascot.

Move on already...

Illiniwek222 wrote on February 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Rosenstein and Kaufman haven't moved on. Nor have you, apparently.

I'm sure you're disappointed in the lackluster anti-Chiefer turnout. Barely enough anti-Chiefers to fill a classroom out of 44,000 students. And a lot of the "protesters" didn't appear to be student age.

CallSaul wrote on February 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Geeze...understanding cause and effect is real hard, huh...?

It's not actually hard at all in this case: if those clinging to the racist old ex mascot would just let it go instead of ginning up these kinds of stunts, then people would not protest at these silly stunts...

You apparently want to keep yipping and screeching about digging up the moldy old racist ex mascot but then melt down into a puddle of goo if anyone dares to disagree with your or point out that the moldy old ex mascot is racist...

Gues what...that's gonna keep happening each and every time you ex mascot clingers gin up silly stunts like this...

Illiniwek222 wrote on February 23, 2018 at 3:02 pm

The stunts would be disrupting the Homecoming parade and filming in a men's room.

Now you can spew some more sad, repetitive, pathetic, worn out, lickspittle nonsense. Toss in some Aunt Jemimah for good measure.

CallSaul wrote on February 23, 2018 at 4:02 pm

What is it with you and other rightwingers having to always crib language and terms from me and others to your left...?

...don't you have a single original thought...like...evar...?

And for the record, digging up the defunct racist moldy old ex mascot and parading him around --- whether it's at homecoming, stupid stunts like last night, or before the West Pigsknuckle Junior High Tee Ball game --- are the stunts...

Say this to yourself 20 times before going to bed every night for the next month: the old racist chicken feather 'chief' ex mascot is gone forever and it will never be the school's mascot ever again.

Let the racist old ex mascot rest in peace and move on already...

Illiniwek222 wrote on February 23, 2018 at 5:02 pm

Not cribbing, just anticipating another looney post from you.

You and Esteban have a great weekend.

Tom Napier wrote on February 24, 2018 at 2:02 pm

You replied to a comment, but then wrote nothing relevant to that comment.

"Please don't dominant the rap, Jack, if you've got nothing new to say.  If you please don't back up the track. This train's got to run today."

Look it up.

CallSaul wrote on February 24, 2018 at 4:02 pm

This goes beyond your usual bad faith tactics into full blown lies and delusion. My response to 222 directly responded to his specious point.

Yet more proof --- though no more was needed of course --- that there is absolutely no point engaging in any serious discussion with you because all you have to offer is bad faith misrepresentation, delusion and outright lies...

UIUCHoopFan wrote on February 23, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Emily Kerlin, a UI graduate and teacher who grew up in Champaign-Urbana said, "The NCAA has ruled that this is not an acceptable mascot."

Please note the NCAA has also ruled that fake degrees are OK at the University of North Carolina.  They also don't hold other institutions to the same standard regarding the use of Native American imagery. 

Shamseldin said, "So many other universities have gotten rid of these mascots. We're just dragging our heels — for what reason, I don't know."

Here's a hint.....it's printed by the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing and referred to as Federal Reserve notes.

Shamseldin called the protest "a huge success."

Merriam-Webster definition of "huge" - extraordinarily large in bulk, quantity, or extent.

16 people signing a letter is not extraordinarily large in bulk, quantity, or extent.

40 protestors is not extraordinarily large in bulk, quantity, or extent.

"It's a sign that the university is ignoring people on campus," he said (Graduate Employees Organization Co-President Gus Wood).

Mr. Wood......sadly the University ignores people all of the time unless handing over those beloved Federal Reserve notes mentioned previously. 

Whether it's NCAA or UIUC the impetus is the same: M-O-N-E-Y

reality wrote on February 23, 2018 at 1:02 pm

How many of the anti-chief protesters have been in the community for decades?  It seems that a lot of them are the University “elite” with their agenda to transform society that they desire.  They don’t and won’t understand the tradition of Chief Illiniwek.  The symbol was NEVER a mascot and NEVER meant to belittle Native Americans.  Instead, it was to honor them.  Once again, the outcome of liberal ideology!

CallSaul wrote on February 23, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Someone from the surrounding community with no connection to the school does not somehow have extra special rights to decide whether the racist old ex mascot should be dug up again...

Their opinions are not somehow more valid than a supposed 'elite' who has actual connections to the university...

Face it and deal with it: the moldy old racist ex mascot is gone. It's gone and it's never going to be the school's mascot ever again.

reality wrote on February 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Correction:  I’m an alumni and also have been at the U of I for almost 20 years.  I’m not just a “someone from the surrounding community” like you referred.  I have moved on but the Chief will always live...

CallSaul wrote on February 23, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Ahhh...well...okay, then...

...so...you're a so called 'elite' yourself, huh...?

Are you saying your opinion, as an 'elite' doesn't matter or is it only the opinions of 'elites' who don't agree with you about the chicken feather 'chief' mascot being racist that don't matter...?

max_zilla wrote on February 23, 2018 at 4:02 pm
Profile Picture

Infuriating how the administration has shown zero willingness to GET A NEW MASCOT. However you feel about the Chief, it's clear it will never be accepted by the complete community either way. So instead of spitting on each other about a decade-old decision lets pick a new one everyone can get on board with and move on. Embarassing to continually have this slapfighting associated with our university when ANY sort of alternative could begin to act as the panacea.

I know I'm the minority around here in not caring about either side "winning" via some kind of protest headcount, I just want to see some mf'ing UNITY again and it's clear the Chief cannot offer that anymore. Find a mascot, make a tasteful display at Spurlock or something about the Chief as a historical symbol including dialogue about differing viewpoints and why it was retired, and find us something new to agree about again instead of divide.

Galloping Ghost costume, anyone?

KlaatuSansGort wrote on February 23, 2018 at 8:02 pm

"Madness;

MADNESS."

Tom Napier wrote on February 24, 2018 at 2:02 pm

The Paint the Hall Chief night was a complete success … and an abysmal failure.

The success:

Thousands and thousands of people exercised their right to express their own opinions and wear apparel of their own choosing to a basketball game.

The abysmal failure:

The sky failed to fall, as predicted by Stephen Kaufman.

Sixteen letter signers failed to prevent thousands of fans from wearing Chief Illinwek apparel.

Sixteen letter signers failed to coerce the University of Illinois into either censorship or shutting down a basketball game.

The Governor of the State of Illinois failed to dispatch a squadron of State Police in response to Mr. Kauffman’s so-called crime alert. Both the University of Illinois and the City of Champaign Police failed to provide additional presence to prevent the so-called serious confrontation predicted (or perhaps wished for) by Mr. Kaufman.

The so-called serious confrontation described (or perhaps wished for) by Mr. Kaufman, failed to materialize.

Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI failed to arrest wearers of Chief apparel as violators of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, as claimed by Mr. Kaufman. State of Illinois law enforcement agencies failed to arrest anyone for violating the Illinois Human Rights Act, as claimed by Mr. Kaufman.

Mr. Kaufman and his protesters failed to produce any tangible, objective evidence that the fourteen thousand-plus attendees are all racist bigots, every last one of them, hell-bent on making the lives of Native Americans miserable.

By calling her protest "a huge success" Raneem Shamseldin, president of the Illinois Student Government, failed to acknowledge her perspectives are inconsistent with both the University of Illinois student body, which she is supposed to represent, and the University of Illinois community at large.

Sixteen letter writers and forty protesters failed to convince anyone except themselves they are the sole arbiters of moral judgment within the University of Illinois community, and the remainder of us are incapable of thinking for ourselves and making our own decisions