Phil Jackson speaks against ‘Fighting Sioux’ name

By Nicola Crean

Phil Jackson, the Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach, spoke out Aug. 25 against the University of North Dakota’s decision to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname, and his assertion strikes close to home for many students in Champaign-Urbana.

Jackson went back to his alma mater to accept an honorary doctorate from the university. In his acceptance speech, he asked officials to think about the impact the nickname has on the University of North Dakota, according to US Weekly.

The university has an agreement with the NCAA to try to win approval from North Dakota’s Sioux tribes over the next three years in order to keep the school’s nickname.

This controversial issue is one that resonates for University students, as the University retired Chief Illiniwek late in the 2007 basketball season.

Heather Punke, freshman in Media, said she felt angry when the Chief nickname was revoked, especially because other universities were allowed to keep their Native American representation.

“I don’t see why Phil Jackson has anything to do with this. Yes, he is an alumnus, but that even makes me more confused,” said Punke.

Punke believes the University of North Dakota is attempting to keep the logo based on money donated by Ralph Engelstad for the new hockey arena, which was constructed in 2001. She said Engelstad threatened to revoke his contributions if the Fighting Sioux sports teams were renamed.

“This seems like a clash of alumni, as one large donator is supporting the Sioux logo and the other, apparently, denouncing it,” said Punke. “I think Phil Jackson speaking up is pointless because UND already made their decision and chose to face the NCAA sanctions.”

Joe Mancari, senior in AHS, said Jackson was justified in speaking out about this situation.

“Anyone who has ever heard of Phil Jackson knows that he is not a controversial man,” Mancari said. “He brought up these ideas that can be looked upon as a solution to the problem, not to add to any controversy.”

Mancari said Jackson does have a viable point that can be applied to all collegiate and professional teams.

“It doesn’t matter what your team name is. All that matters is everyone playing as a team and going out there and doing their best no matter what it says across their jerseys,” Mancari said.