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Published August 19, 2011, 05:34 AM

Rep. Carlson Won't Sponsor Reversal of Nickname Law

But won’t block Sioux legislation
House Majority Leader Al Carlson said he won’t be the one to make the first move to reverse a state law mandating the University of North Dakota keep its Fighting Sioux nickname.

By: Teri Finneman, Forum Communications

BISMARCK – House Majority Leader Al Carlson said he won’t be the one to make the first move to reverse a state law mandating the University of North Dakota keep its Fighting Sioux nickname.

When asked this week if he would introduce legislation to undo the law, Carlson said he wouldn’t.

“I’m principled enough to know that I’m not going to do that,” said Carlson, who sponsored the controversial law that took effect this month.

However, Carlson said he also won’t discourage anyone else from submitting legislation to amend or repeal the law and said he would go along with what must be done.

“I’m not here to obstruct the process or to hurt UND,” he said. “We’re not going to damage the university.”

State officials failed last week to convince NCAA officials that the University of North Dakota should be allowed to keep its nickname. They also said sanctions for keeping the name would be more severe than originally thought, including NCAA member schools refusing to schedule games with UND.

As a result, the school is re-starting transition plans that were put on hold after the Legislature passed the law requiring it to keep the name and logo.

After years of controversy surrounding the nickname – deemed hostile and abusive to Native Americans by the NCAA – UND officials say they hope to retire the nickname and logo by the end of the year.

The process of picking a new nickname and logo ­hadn’t begun before this year’s legislation put everything on hold. School spokesman Peter Johnson said President Robert Kelley is in no hurry to find a new moniker.

Some sports have already moved away from the Sioux logo. The football team is using an interlocking “ND” that has been a secondary logo for several years.

The North Dakota Legislature is tentatively scheduled to begin its special session Nov. 7. Carlson said the Fighting Sioux nickname law is among the session topics, which also include redistricting and federal health care reform.

Earlier this week, the Grand Forks Herald urged Carlson to take the lead on repealing his law.

“It’s Carlson who bears most of the responsibility for putting UND in the untenable position it’s now in,” the Herald wrote. “And it’s Carlson who should stand tall, accept that responsibility and now show the way out.”

Despite the law’s failure, Carlson said he doesn’t regret pushing for it, saying he voted for what a majority of North Dakotans wanted. He said he also feels deeply for the Native Americans who support keeping the nickname, saying “it’s a very prideful name for them.”

He said he’s had an outpouring of communication from members of the state’s Sioux tribes saying they want to continue to fight for the name.

“I told them, if they’re going to fight some more, it’s going to be their fight,” he said.

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