Student in Ohio Says Headdress Led to Ouster from Game

OXFORD, Ohio – A student at Miami University of Ohio says an American Indian headdress he wore to show school spirit got him thrown out of a home football game.

Victor Kopen, a senior at the southwest Ohio university, said he was not at the Oct. 23 game “to make a political statement of any kind, just to support the football team,” Cincinnati’s WCPO-TV reported.

University trustees, citing respect for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma, voted to drop the name Redskins as its athletic nickname in 1996 after the tribe approved a resolution saying it could no longer support use of the nickname. Trustees adopted the RedHawks name the following year.

Although the university does not have a written policy addressing American Indian attire, it is discouraged by staff at athletic events, university spokeswoman Claire Wagner said.

“We want students to be able to express themselves, but to do it responsibly and respectfully,” she said Tuesday.

University officials are looking into Kopen’s claim.

Kopen said ushers asked him to remove his headdress three times during the game against Ohio University and then asked him to leave.

“The Native American attire was a nod only to Miami’s rich athletic tradition, something that is tied to the old logo and commemorated in several places at Yager Stadium,” Kopen said in a statement.

A message seeking comment was left at a telephone listing for Kopen.

Wagner said the issue falls under “respect for people and cultures.”

“Some students are more aware of that in relation to other groups of people, but they don’t understand they are misappropriating a culture,” she said. “They may have good intentions but be misinformed.”

The old Indian head logo remains on shirts and hats sold at campus bookstores. While the logo may be reproduced on hats and men’s and women’s style short- and long- sleeve collared shirts, it can’t be larger than 3.5 inches wide and 2.7 inches high, the policy states.

The logo is considered a stand-alone historical mark and cannot be used in conjunction with other logos or wordmarks or on team-issued apparel or equipment. It may only be used in conjunction with items relating to the history of Miami University athletics, the policy states.

Wagner said university officials will be discussing whether a formal policy on fans wearing American Indian attire is needed.