Hearing set on UND nickname appealA hearing has been set for Feb. 14 in St. Paul on University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux nickname supporters’ appeal of a judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit against the NCAA.
By: By Chuck Haga, Forum News Service, The Jamestown Sun
GRAND FORKS — A hearing has been set for Feb. 14 in St. Paul on University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux nickname supporters’ appeal of a judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit against the NCAA.
Pro-nickname members of the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux nations last year appealed U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson’s dismissal of their lawsuit to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Attorneys for the NCAA and for Spirit Lake’s pro-nickname Committee for Understanding and Respect have filed to appear before a three-judge panel assigned by the appeals court to hear the case.
The committee, joined by Standing Rock Sioux member Archie Fool Bear, had filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Nov. 1, 2011, alleging violations of contract law and federal civil rights laws and demanding reversal of the NCAA policy against use of American Indian names and imagery by member schools.
Committee and NCAA lawyers argued the issue in Fargo before Judge Erickson, who dismissed the suit in early May 2012. The Spirit Lake committee and Fool Bear filed notice of appeal at the end of May.
‘Denied a seat’
In mid-June, just three days after state primary election voters overwhelmingly endorsed retirement of the nickname, the Spirit Lake committee fleshed out its notice of appeal, telling the appeals court that the Sioux people had been denied “a seat at the table” as the controversial issue worked through state and federal courts, the North Dakota Legislature and NCAA governing bodies.
After the primary election vote, the State Board of Higher Education directed UND to retire the historic nickname and Indian-head logo, which it has done. UND athletic teams have since competed as “North Dakota” and “UND” while the university complies with a state-imposed nickname moratorium until 2015.
In a written brief filed with the appeals court last August, the NCAA said the plaintiffs lack standing to sue, “however sincere (their) antipathy toward the NCAA,” and their appeal “is as procedurally improper as it is futile.”
Reed Soderstrom, a Minot attorney representing the Spirit Lake committee and Fool Bear, responded that the NCAA had not engaged the committee’s arguments, “relying instead on a barrage of un-meritorious claims regarding pleading, standing and statutes of limitation.”
As in previous filings and arguments, Soderstrom and the committee rely heavily on a 1969 naming ceremony conducted at UND by Sioux elders, the significance of which has been a matter of dispute.