No, this post is not about Don Imus. It's about the University of Illinois bringing back Chief Illiniwek. You may recall that UI abandoned the mascot last winter after pressure from the NCAA.
There had been a ban, put in place by the school, eliminating the use of the Chief (who was never a real chief by the way; whose dress and "dance" does not reflect anything the Illini ever wore or did) at school events. But this year Chancellor Richard Herman lifted the ban on using Illiniwek's likeness just in time for homecoming festivities because he felt it limited the free expression of students. And so various Illiniweks showed up at the homecoming parade. There were no protesters.
It's nothing less than sickening. Sportswriter Dave Zirin devotes his column this week over at Edge of Sports to the issue. He spoke about it briefly last week in Pittsburgh where he gave a keynote address at the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport conference. I found him very engaging. He mentioned he is currently getting a lot of mail from irate UI students.
How concerned was UI with protecting free speech when Charlene Teters--who started protesting Illiniwek back in the 80s all by herself--was threatened with death for her actions; the ultimate silencing technique? [You can learn more about Teters's campaign and Native American mascots by watching In Whose Honor.]