URBANA -- Students lined up 15 deep at University of Illinois bookstores Friday, snapping up every Chief Illiniwek T-shirt, magnet and fleece blanket they could before the mascot has his last dance next week.
As expected, university officials announced Friday that Wednesday's men's basketball game will be the last performance for the controversial chief, who has been at the center of a yearslong, bitter fight.
And though a Champaign County judge and University of Illinois law school alumnus questioned the university's decision, he refused Friday morning to issue a temporary restraining order that would have blocked the move.
Good call for the judge. This is a stupid decision to make, but it's certainly not illegal.
The decision came after more than 15 years of forums, protests and studies about what to do with the chief, which supporters said was an honorable and cherished tradition and critics said was demeaning to Native Americans.
For all the bitterness that surrounded the chief's last few months, from lawsuits to threats, the end of the chief was ushered in not so much with a bang or whimper as with the sound of ringing cash registers.
In the first three hours of business, one campus store sold 1,400 chief-related items.
Gotta love capitalism.
The mood was more reserved at the Native American House, which has helped lead the fight to dump the tradition. There, a cultural group, in town for an unrelated event, sang and beat a large, horsehide drum.
"This is a significant moment," said Wanda Pillow, director of the Native American House. But, she said, "For us, this is the first step of many steps. They haven't yet addressed what this means for the logos or for how Chief Illiniwek will be talked about."
Yawn. I guess from now on, all mascots will be animals--unless PETA has their way.
During the hearing, the judge and U. of I. attorney Jim Kearns suggested university officials faced pressure not only from the NCAA, but also from Illinois Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago), who has spoken out against the chief for years.
"Are they capitulating to the NCAA or are they capitulating to the president of the Illinois Senate?" Judge Jones asked.
It doesn't matter to whom they are capitulating. It only matters that they are doing so. *sigh*