State officials filed a lawsuit Friday against the NCAA to challenge its restrictions on the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says the lawsuit, filed in Northeast Central District Court in Grand Forks, alleges a breach of contract by the NCAA, a breach of good faith and illegal restraint of trade.
Stenehjem says the lawsuit seeks to allow UND to use the nickname throughout the school year without being sanctioned in possible postseason play, along with unspecified monetary damages.
The NCAA has banned the use of some American Indian nicknames and logos in postseason tournaments, saying they are hostile and abusive. But Stenehjem says the organization has overstepped its bounds.
“This is about a process to be followed by the NCAA,” he says. “Frankly, I don’t think that anybody, regardless of how they feel about the result, should be satisfied or pleased with the process.”
The NCAA has 20 days to respond after it is served with the lawsuit, according to Stenehjem. NCAA President Myles Brand has said the NCAA will defend its policy “to the utmost.”
The North Dakota Board of Higher Education voted in June to file the lawsuit after two North Dakota appeals were rejected.
“This action by the NCAA keeps me from doing what the board says we should do here,” says UND President Charles E. Kupchella, adding that the NCAA process was unfair and wrong.
Other schools initially deemed to have unsuitable nicknames by the NCAA have won the right to use their monikers on appeal. They include the Florida State University Seminoles, the Central Michigan University Chippewas and the University of Utah Utes.
A number of American Indian students want UND to drop the nickname and logo. One official with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe wrote a letter supporting the university, but another opposed the nickname.
A branch of the UND Alumni Association set up a fund to help pay for the lawsuit after the state board of education ruled it must be financed with private money.
— Associated Press
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