Voters made their voices clear Tuesday: it's time to retire University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, more than 67 percent of voters had voted yes on Measure 4, rejecting this latest effort by nickname supporters to preserve the moniker. The Associated Press called the Measure 4 race at approximately 10 p.m.
University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation CEO Tim O’Keefe said Tuesday’s yes vote was bittersweet.
“This is an issue that doesn’t come with celebration,” O’Keefe said.
With its passage, Measure 4 repeals Senate Bill 2370, which was passed during the Legislature’s November 2011 special session. The bill repealed Section 15-10-46 of North Dakota Century Code, which the Legislature passed in spring 2011. Section 15-10-46 required UND to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
The yes vote allows UND to discontinue use of the nickname and logo. The Board of Higher Education and UND also will be barred from allowing the implementation of a new nickname or logo before Jan. 1, 2015. A no vote would’ve required the nickname’s use to continue.
The Spirit Lake Committee for Understanding and Respect was the group that worked to get Measure 4 on the ballot. Its members, along with the Fighting Sioux Ballot Measures committee, have worked to retain the nickname.
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Sean Johnson with the Spirit Lake Committee for Understanding and Respect said efforts to maintain the name aren’t over. He said the group has gathered more than enough signatures to get a proposed constitutional measure to preserve the Fighting Sioux name on the November ballot.
“At this point we’re still looking to push forward with the initiated measure,” Johnson said.
UND Foundation members argued that UND would pay too high a price long-term if forced to remain the Fighting Sioux. Officials said the inability to host playoff series could cost the city of Grand Forks millions of dollars in hospitality and retail sales dollars. Athletic coaches said NCAA sanctions could hurt recruiting efforts and erode the overall quality of their programs.
Nickname supporters have said the moniker has been a source of pride for decades. They’ve argued that the impacts of NCAA sanctions and economic impact to the city of Grand Forks by those in favor of retiring the nickname are exaggerated.
O’Keefe said he would be disappointed if nickname supporters bring the issue back to the ballot in November.
“It would seem as though the voters of North Dakota have spoken loud and clear,” O’Keefe said.