Tate: There's no dancing around the subject of the 'war chant' ban

Tate: There's no dancing around the subject of the 'war chant' ban

Hear from former Illini J Leman Friday at 5:10 on WDWS.

A new football season is upon us. Saturday's Illini home opener against Ball State should be the hot topic of the week.

In an obvious UI misstep, however, it has been supplanted by an unnecessary distraction — that of banning a lingering connection to the Chief Illiniwek tradition, the "war chant." The uproar isn't as much about the elimination of the drum beat as it is about reviving the genuine sore spot, the retirement of Chief Illiniwek a decade ago, and creating concern that the popular "Three-in-One" halftime music is in the chancellor's telescopic sights.

This firestorm, then, is mostly about those feeling long-harbored resentment about what happened before, and a growing concern about what might happen next.

This entire issue sticks in the craw of most Illini backers, who remain offended that the NCAA used the terms "hostile and abusive" in forcing the UI to retire the Chief.

Now Chancellor Robert Jones has called the newly eliminated drum beat "divisive." But it's not nearly as divisive as insulting the overwhelming majority of Illini fans who support it.

Following are some of the reactions pouring in from the vast unwashed, our unrecognized constituency ... those with a voice but not a vote (condensed in most cases). Volly: "There are several hundred thousand alumni stakeholders in this game, not to mention the taxpayers who help fund the university. The disingenuous commentary that the university desires to 'be more inclusive' and 'improve the atmosphere of Illinois football games,' is laughable. How does this sneaky maneuver make for more inclusion? Angering the fan base is not a tactic that will be found in Marketing 101.

"The ivory tower folks at the university ... speak for a relative handful, and condescend to the rest of us."

Mike: "This is the straw that broke my back. The Fighting Illini will be next. I want them to change the school name from Illinois because that is an Indian name. I will not watch UI games anymore."

Steve: "I attended my first Illini football game in 1959 (Army). My loyalty to Illini athletics and passion are born of three generations.

"The most recent discussions regarding the potential selection of a new mascot is a misnomer. The UI has never had a mascot. Chief Illiniwek was the symbol of Illini Nation. No mascot will ever replace The Chief.

"Unfortunately, people who don't bleed Orange & Blue have been in charge of such decisions for far too long. Although I am a staunch Chief backer, I now believe we must adapt these images/traditions that are acceptable to everyone. I have come to realize that if Native Americans perceive these as negative, then it needs to be modified.

"The NCAA allows Florida State to retain their symbol (Chief Osceola), who appears at FSU events. FSU has had the blessing of the Seminole Nation and rewards them with a financial stipend every year. Our only choice is to get a consensus from all Native American tribes that express an interest in the situation.

"The fact that the NCAA has blackmailed the UI, threatening to ban postseason hosting opportunities unless the Chief was retired, while at the same time allowing Florida State to maintain Chief Osceola, is patently unfair."

Gary: "I am sure the video scoreboard was better (than the drum beat). How many meaningful football games have the Illini played since 2010? The 15-20,000 fans who are in the stadium are not that interested because of blowouts and the product on the field."

Don: "I attended games as a child and sold programs in the stands. My parents were members of the 'Squanto Survivors,' a group of retired Agronomy professors. Most of them were not happy with the retirement of Squanto as the mascot of the department but if you look back at the newsletters you can see that the art was a racist caricature."

"You and I will never see eye-to-eye on things like the Chief. I take exception with your comment regarding those of us who do not support the use of mascots such as the Chief. Does it really take such a great feat of imagination for you to consider that there might be those of us who are both fans of Illinois and embarrassed by the disrespectful display that is the Chief?

"I am also moved by the cheers and the music from the band, especially at football games. However, as long as the chants or music are themselves disrespectful to American Indians, or are inextricably associated with the Chief, it won't be possible for me to hear them without also feeling regret that we have not truly gotten past all of this. The reinvention of the Chief as a 'revered symbol' reminds me of the rewriting of history that has been in the news of late: namely, the recasting of the Confederacy as being about something besides slavery."

Anonymous by request: "I wonder about the outcome if the university had challenged the NCAA in court? What is it in its charter that gives the NCAA authority over mascots or symbols, or better yet, the right to pass judgment about what is discriminating and what is not. Some would argue that the NCAA's threats and actions are themselves discriminating. Membership in the NCAA is voluntary, but questions of fairness and equity would seem relevant nonetheless."

Rick: "When music is censored because of its connection, affiliation or the taboo thoughts and imagery it may evoke of a student-beloved mascot (90 percent to 10 percent in the last student poll), we have a problem at the state's principal university. Will we start burning the books about Chief Illiniwek next on the steps of the grad library? Do the alumni also lose 'Oskee Wow-Wow' next from the Marching Illini repertory, because, after all, that's a war chant, fight song too!"

Charlie: "I always wondered how many people who worked so feverishly against the Chief actually attended games? Never in our dreams did we think we were being racist. The great Illini who were the 'best of the best' loved the Chief."

John: "I could find some music my fine Alma Mater could censor. Let's begin with rap music that distinguishes acts of violence against women and our finest who usually wear blue. PC gone mad."

Roger: "I grew up with the Chief. Thought it was one of the best, and a show that honored Native Americans."

Rick: "Now that we have censorship of the band's music and administrative precedent in the chant, the historic Marching Illini halftime drill is not long for this world. Sneaky administration officials will probably do it quietly at a non-conference basketball game during semester break. We could then ceremoniously burn the manuscript on the steps of the Harding Band Building for the band's Sesquicentennial next year at Homecoming!"

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com

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JimOATSfan wrote on August 31, 2017 at 1:08 am


I like the war chant. LETS HAVE EVERYONE AT EVEY HOME GAME SING IT, OR HUM IT ... no music.


What about the IOWA HAWKEYES? Anybody offended yet?

Per wiki: Nickname=Hawkeyes, and Mascot=Herky the Hawk



Those trying to run the world as one large 'family' have a program out there to disassociate everyone from what they know and grew up with. PLUS the even older program of creating fights/tension between anyone and everyone ... all the while pretending it isn't happening (sound like UNC Athletics???).


BigD wrote on August 31, 2017 at 9:08 am

How about an empty stadium this Saturday.

Moonpie wrote on August 31, 2017 at 7:08 am

It's an "obvious misstep" ony to people who insist on keeping institutionalized racism.

They gotta have their Dancin' Injun!!!

Time to move on from prehistoric times, folks. Let Tate wallow in the ancient past.

Orbiter wrote on August 31, 2017 at 11:08 am

Exactly, moonpie.  It's deplorable.

GLG wrote on August 31, 2017 at 11:08 am

We all know you don't like Tate, Give it a rest. 


Better yet tell us what happend at the News Gazette!! and why YOU don't work there anymore!


IlliniMike05 wrote on August 31, 2017 at 3:08 pm

That's not what institutional racism means, smart guy. It's not a tangible, obviously expicable thing you can "keep." It's something that's woven into the fabric of societal practices and institutions like education, banking, criminal justice, health care, etc. that subtly make things more difficult for people of color. While it was quite obvious that Chief Illiniwek had become an embarassing relic of the past (the War Chant, not so much, but I'm not losing sleep over it), it was cultural appropriation, not institutionalized racism. 

You were so close to making a salient point. You'll get there some day. 

OrlandoIllini wrote on August 31, 2017 at 8:08 am

The state of Illinois, and consequently several of its public universities, take their names from an American Indian tribe. A logical extension of the bolshevik, anti-Chief revisionism about school symbols and music is to change the racist, hostile and abusive names of states such Illinois, Indiana, Delaware and the Dakotas, and many American towns and cities. (The name “Chicago” derives from a word in the language spoken by the Miami and Illinois peoples meaning “striped skunk,” a word they also applied to the wild leek.)

Arrogant elitists encounter an honorable symbol commemorating an honorable people, and their reflexive reaction is to spew hate-filled accusations and threats at all who support the symbol. Yet FSU bribes tribes, and somehow a horse-mounted warrior with a flaming spear is acceptable rather than hostile or abusive.

Ironically, as far as these sanctimonious hypocrites are concerned, apparently the only good Indian is a dead Indian.


Annotator wrote on August 31, 2017 at 10:08 pm

Yes, let's get rid of the state's name, then see what Rham and Barack say when the bolsheviks whine to change Chicago to Lenningrad.

IlliniMike05 wrote on August 31, 2017 at 8:08 am

"The UI has never had a mascot."

Yes they did. Its name was Chief Illiniwek. Just because you call it a "symbol" (which is a synonym for mascot anyway) doesn't make it not a mascot. 


Bob from Champaign wrote on August 31, 2017 at 8:08 am

This whole issue has become absolutely ridiculous.  It's as if the University revels in keeping the controversy alive.  They yank the Chief and Native American imagry with no replacment or pathway forward, leaving an open wound with long-time fans.  Then, every so often they like to come back and pick at it to be sure it continues to fester.  What administrative environment lets people think the sidelines of a soccer match is the appropriate venue to begin implementation of a new policy surrounding an issue with strong sentiments on each side?  The whole situation has become comical. There is obviously no interest in resolution, just the continuation of animosity and mistrust.  This University and by extension this State, couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag.

rsp wrote on August 31, 2017 at 9:08 am

The plan was to implement it starting at the football games. It sounds like they didn't know it was going to be played at the soccer match. And it just sounds out of place there.

Justsayinmytwocents wrote on August 31, 2017 at 10:08 am

For all you smart people out there...it is impossble for a musical note or musical beat to be racist.  If there is any perception of racism, it is only in the ear and mind of the listener.  A musical note can be no more racist than the wind.

IlliniMike05 wrote on August 31, 2017 at 2:08 pm

No, not really. Just because something isn't overtly racist doesn't mean it isn't cultural misappropriation. Whether the War Chant falls into that category or not, I can't really make up my mind. (Though have you ever heard the song in which the tune is from? It's racist as hell.) I personally think it's a bridge too far, but anyone who's disavowing their fandom over it shouldn't be missed. They're probably the people who need to sit on the side of the road and let society pass them by anyway. 

Annotator wrote on August 31, 2017 at 10:08 pm

Possibly, the war chant is from the Captain Kangaroo program of the '50s.  However, it's decidely the same rhythm from the Hamms beer commercials of the '60s and '70s.  That goes along with the cultural depravity (riots, property damage, public drunkeness and marijuana consumption of all manner) of the student body in those decades.  A very fitting mascot/symbol for the UofI (which ties in with the Chicago Bears in more ways than one) is the Hamms beer bear character.

moderndaycowboy wrote on August 31, 2017 at 10:08 am

Just curious, how many of the people upset about this, and the removeal of the chief, are alumni, students, or even employees of the university?

OrlandoIllini wrote on August 31, 2017 at 10:08 am

Here is one such alum.

EdRyan wrote on August 31, 2017 at 11:08 am

One thing for sure is that is is going to be a great revenue generator for WDWS and the Gazette!

The NCAA deal with Florida State is pretty low.  Sounds like disparate treatment to me.

IlliniMike05 wrote on August 31, 2017 at 2:08 pm

"Sounds like disparate treatment to me."

It isn't.

Orbiter wrote on August 31, 2017 at 11:08 am


Lostinspace wrote on August 31, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Reminder: football is a game.  Players play before spectators for their entertainment and relaxation. Family fun.  

IlliniMike05 wrote on August 31, 2017 at 3:08 pm

No, college football is bloodsport that uses unpaid labor to make a handful of old rich white dudes even richer.


Feltrino wrote on August 31, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Alum here, for whatever that is worth.  These kids are destined to suffer horrible brain damage and all you can think of is the Chief and a war chant?  The tens of millions of dollars that are made at the expense of people who not only don't get paid but many don't even get an education (not that that is a concern) and by this point have probably had enough head trauma to cause problems later in life is obscene.  And you are worried about the Chief or a war chant? 

Unless you are one of the "handful of old rich white dudes" who are getting even richer, why do you even care?  Take some of that money, pay the players, don't force them to take classes if they don't want to, tell the NCAA to take a hike, embrace the capitalism that is collegiate athletics and name the team whatever you want.  Capitalism is great that way.

IlliniMike05 wrote on August 31, 2017 at 7:08 pm

You either totally missed my point or you have a strange way of agreeing with people.

byrdslover wrote on August 31, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Bob from Champaign - best, most intelligent comment I've read on this in a long time.  Thanks.

aberger wrote on August 31, 2017 at 3:08 pm

Again, the University makes a midnight decision without any imput.  Fantastic.  Let's just change our names to the Fighting "I's" and have a big orange gumby like mascot.  Wow, that will really bring the house down.  I wonder if the University is going to stop all merchandising of the Chief logo which would result it them losing that trademark?  I would love to ask Killeen/Jones that question.

IlliniUnion wrote on August 31, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Geez, Loren.  Really?  What a disservice to your university.  Is the University of Illinois so fragile that you need to go mining for these comments to show how terrible the loss of Pow Wow the Indian Boy's (a cartoon, for heaven's sake) song is to a Big Ten university?  Are we really that shallow and fragile?  Loren, you make the University of Illinois appear to be not an academy of higher learning but an old, crusty white man who is ticked off that you got your fidget spinner takn away.  

Living in the midst of two Native nations, you just need to go to one Pow Wow to know what a terrible rendition this is of Native culture.  The primary drumbeat is one of a heartbeat to convey rhythm and a connection to the earth.  You are not upset about getting rid of Native culture.  You're upset about getting rid of white culture that characterizes Native culture in the form of a cartoon.

So that is what we are.  We hold onto this culture and become a bigger and bigger cartoon with no intelligent conversation abour race, the real struggles of Native peoples, or developing a tradition that might bring liberal and conservative alike together to describe my alma mater.  Learning and labor, my eye.  We're supposed to keep some romantic notion of a university that hasn't learned a thing.  

Knowing that this Native culture is so important to us, I'm sure all of the people complaining made their way to Standing Rock to make sure we lifted up the "symbol" of what it means to be "Illini."  Oh, that's right.  The Chief is not supposed to be real or salute any real spirit.  He is just a toy you can fabricate into whatever you want.  Pow wow the Indian boy be praised!

billbtri5 wrote on August 31, 2017 at 8:08 pm

..when are they going to take on this "Fighting Irish" nonsense as well...the very phrase implies us Irish to be a lot of drunken brawlers, as true as that may be, it still should be changed...

Notsoaveragejoe wrote on August 31, 2017 at 10:08 pm

My vote for a new mascot is the Fightin' Snowflakes.

Community wrote on September 01, 2017 at 10:09 am

A caricature of Donald Trump? 

Bwp 5P wrote on September 01, 2017 at 8:09 am

Nope......the new mascot will be a Huge Abe Lincoln charicature!

We'll be either the "Dishonest Abes", or the "Lincon Logs".

Tuck wrote on September 01, 2017 at 11:09 pm

Everytime some one disagrees with the decision to take away the Chief, the proponents of the chief are called racists, that in itself is "hogwash".   When ever I watched the Chief, it was always represented as a respectful program, never disrespectful of anything of any native American.   In my opinion, the NCAA was wrong in forcing the U of I to dismiss the Chief.

IlliniMike05 wrote on September 02, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Your intentions (nor the University's intentions before they thankfully got rid of this silly mascot) don't preclude it from being racist. I don't know who you're quoting as calling it "hogwash," but I'm guessing the answer is nobody, and you're using quotation marks for no real reason, which is the only "hogwash" thing present here. 

Put the internet down and take a nap. You're doing it wrong. 

byrdslover wrote on September 04, 2017 at 11:09 pm

Now Loren is offended that the NCAA called his Chief some not nice names. Ouchie little Loren, your feelings must be really hurt.