August 25, 2017

Illini say happy trails to war chant

The drum cadence used at Illinois football games and for other sports during critical game situations has been officially retired at University of Illinois athletic events. Kent Brown, Associate Director of Athletics for Media Relations, told radio station WDWS "It been brought up by each administration, at least the last three if not further back than that, concerns about the War Chant at our events."



According to news reports and several posts on Facebook,a representative of the athletic department asked to stop playing the Native-American inspired drumming at Thursday evening's women's home soccer game against Washington University. The Illini fell 2-1 to the visiting Huskies.

The move has many loyal Illini fans ready to hit the warpath. Many of the responses and reactions in the comment section of a post on the story published by The News-Gazette feared that Three-In-One, the traditional halftime show music, may also be on the chopping block.

Brink Grismer wrote in one of the post, "I will STOP my financial support of Illinois athletics as of today." Dave Holzner shared the same sentiment writing, "Stop attending games, I know I won't be spending any more money on U of I athletics, make a stand."

Brown said the move was made to make Illinois sporting events more inclusive however the new video board did a much better job at getting fans on their feet and making noise during games when the Illini needed the boost from their fans. Prior to yesterday's announcement the sports department had been diminishing the use of the War Chant for its eventual retirement.

Despite the University distancing athletics use of Native American imagery, which students and faculty for the last two decades fought rid from campus, Brenda Ponton-Spaulding wrote: "I'm part Native American and I am in NO way offended by any of this STUPID BS! I'm honored that the school had picked my heritage to use as their mascot!"

Today, we live in an amazing time in American history where the freedom to interpret and display cultural values is taboo. Words like cultural appropriation, racism, and stereotypical cliches roll off the tongues of academics, the well-educated and liberal left like noodling, NASCAR and Natty Light of those who see their grasp over traditions viewed as cultural appreciation slip away.

If diehard Illinois fans truly appreciated Indian culture and the education they earned on campus, you would think they would put equal if not more effort (and monetary contribution) in building a world class Native American Studies program at the University of Illinois. The pride of these proud Illini extends about 10 to 15 yards outside the doors of Memorial Stadium and the State Farm Center, and nowhere close to the American Indian Studies Program or their staff of 12.

It probably doesn't seem the least bit awkward that the University does not offer an undergraduate degree in Indian or Native American studies yet has fans and alumni who are still seething about the loss of a halftime display that bears no resemblance to a traditional dance from any First Nation tribe; attracted to feathered headdresses; and athletic wear embolden with various illustrations central to the culture only a handful of people can minor in on campus.

It is 2017 and not one of the many indigenous languages of the America is taught at the University or in any Illinois high school. With a nickname like Illini, you would think the University would require every freshman to take just one discovery or pass/fail course on Native American culture and history.

While it was sad to see Chief Illiniwek retired years, the direction the University of Illinois is one of least resistance and sensible as we become a more modern, civilized society in the poorest state in the country. The cost of building a strong Indian studies program, as well as offering scholarships to bring bright, talented Native American high school students to campus and increasing the number of students whose ancestors once owned the land would be too high. Although, that could easily be rectified with a statewide sugary drink tax.

As for the War Chant, why let it die? The athletic department should simply rebrand it as Irish Battle Drums or Roman War Chant. After all, we do live in a wonderfully inclusive world.

August 17, 2017

High school sports bonds communities

Tailgates. Pep rallies. Friday night lights. The new school year is here! And that’s exciting news for student-athletes and high school sports fans alike.

Research shows that being a student-athlete is about a lot more than fun and games. It teaches important life lessons, too. In fact, high school athletes not only have higher grade point averages and fewer school absences than non-athletes, they also develop the kind of work habits and self-discipline skills that help them become more responsible and productive community members.

Attending high school sporting events teaches important life lessons, too.

Among them, it teaches that we can live in different communities, come from different backgrounds, faiths and cultures, cheer for different teams, and still have a common bond.

That’s why attending the activities hosted by your high school this fall is so important. It’s not only an opportunity to cheer for your hometown team, it is also an opportunity to celebrate our commonality. And that’s something our country needs right now.

The bond we share is mutually supporting the teenagers in our respective communities. We applaud their persistence, tenacity, preparation and hard work, regardless of the color of the uniform they wear. We acknowledge that education-based, high school sports are enhancing their lives, and ours, in ways that few other activities could. And we agree that, regardless of what side of the field we sit on, attending a high school sporting event is an uplifting, enriching, family-friendly experience for all of us.

Many of the high schools in our state lie at the heart of the communities they serve. They not only are educating our next generation of leaders, they also are a place where we congregate, where people from every corner of town and all walks of life come together as one. And at no time is this unity more evident than during a high school athletic event.

This is the beginning of a new school year. Opportunities abound in the classroom and outside it. Let’s make the most of them by attending as many athletic events at the high school in our community as possible.

Turn on the lights, and let the games begin!

Bob Gardner
Executive Director of the NFSHA

Craig Anderson
Executive Director of the IHSA