Chief critic calls for UI to stop joint Illini-Blackhawks promotion

Chief critic calls for UI to stop joint Illini-Blackhawks promotion

Weigh in: Submit a letter to the editor

Tonight's Chicago Blackhawks game against the Arizona Coyotes will feature a promotion for University of Illinois fans, and that isn't sitting well with a longtime critic of Chief Illiniwek.

Stephen Kaufman wrote to Chancellor Robert Jones and other UI officials recently complaining about an orange-and-blue baseball cap to be given to fans at the event. The hat features the university's Block I and the Chicago Blackhawks logo, a profile drawing of an American Indian.

"This endorsement of the Blackhawks and the merchandising of the Block I symbol with the Blackhawks logo does the campus an enormous disservice and disregards thirty years of objections to the use of Native American imagery by the campus that has been repeatedly voiced in the UIUC Senate," Kaufman wrote to campus senate leaders last week.

He asked the Senate Executive Committee to urge Jones to immediately rescind the university's endorsement of the Blackhawks and ensure that no more items with the university's Block I logo be marketed or distributed.

Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the UI approved the hat before the Blackhawks logo was added.

"The design was approved without the hockey team's logo on it, and when the addition of their logo was discovered the design had already been released. We have updated our approval process to ensure that complete designs must be shared before approval is granted," she wrote in an email.

"Pro sports teams often request the use of our logo for promotions that involve attracting our alumni and students," Kaler said Friday, declining further comment.

The Illini promotion is one of many sponsored by the Blackhawks to draw fans from different groups to hockey games. The website currently includes ticket offers and themed merchandise for firefighters, labor union members, health care professionals, Scouting, people of Greek heritage and alumni and fans of Northern Illinois University.

Illini fans who bought promotional tickets for tonight's game will get the Illini-themed Blackhawks hat. On Sunday, the website said the promotional tickets were sold out.

Kaufman said the UI's affiliation with the Blackhawks and its logo shows "defiant disregard" to the individuals and organizations that have made their objections known to Native American sports imagery, including students, faculty, alumni, the NCAA and civil rights, religious and educational organizations.

He had written a similar letter to Jones on March 1.

"Moreover, this action totally undermines any efforts to bring the Illiniwek issue to a meaningful resolution," he wrote to Jones, presumably referring to the chancellor's Commission on Native Imagery.

After receiving Kaler's explanation, Kaufman said the partnership with the Blackhawks was unacceptable whether it reflected "incompetence, malfeasance or underhanded collaboration."

Bettina Francis, who chairs the Senate Executive Committee, said she has forwarded Kaufman's letter to other committee members but no decision has been made about whether to place it on the senate agenda.

The Senate Executive Committee doesn't meet again until March 26, and the next senate meeting is April 1.