NCAA: Dismiss nickname lawsuitGRAND FORKS — As expected, the NCAA has asked a federal court to toss the lawsuit brought against the association by Sioux Indians who support the University of North Dakota retaining its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
By: Chuck Haga, The Dickinson Press
GRAND FORKS — As expected, the NCAA has asked a federal court to toss the lawsuit brought against the association by Sioux Indians who support the University of North Dakota retaining its Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Fargo on Nov. 2 by the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe and Archie Fool Bear, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. It alleges that the NCAA’s efforts to have the nickname retired “violate Native American civil rights, equal protection rights and religious rights.”
The Indians’ lawsuit asks for at least $10 million and a halt to the association’s policy against the use of American Indian names and imagery by member schools’ athletic teams.
In its motion for dismissal, the NCAA said the Indians’ claims aren’t supported by facts and that Spirit Lake and Fool Bear lack standing to bring the lawsuit.
Reed Soderstrom, a Minot attorney who represents Spirit Lake’s pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect, said he received notice of the NCAA filing Friday morning.
“It’s something we expected, and we will be firing our own missiles after the first of the year,” he said. “We’ll file a motion for summary judgment.”
He said the tribe’s lawsuit has a dozen counts, and “there may be a count or two or more” struck from the lawsuit, “but we will still be standing.”
Soderstrom announced the lawsuit last month at Spirit Lake tribal headquarters in Fort Totten, surrounded by tribal officials and representatives of Standing Rock. He acknowledged then, however, that it was unlikely the federal court would schedule the lawsuit until 2013.
Several Indian students at UND who oppose the nickname also have filed a federal lawsuit asking the court to require retirement of the nickname.
UND is doing so under direction of the State Board of Higher Education, to meet requirements of a 2007 settlement agreement with the NCAA, which considers Indian nicknames hostile and abusive.
The retirement of the 81-year-old nickname had started in 2010 but was suspended earlier this year when the Legislature adopted a law requiring UND to retain it. Lawmakers last month repealed the law, concerned that it would damage UND and its athletic teams.
In addition to suing the NCAA, the Spirit Lake committee and allies at Standing Rock have begun circulating petitions seeking a referendum on the repeal and an initiated measure to put the nickname on the state Constitution.
Haga is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.