The University of North Dakota will resume using its contentious Fighting Sioux nickname despite threats from the NCAA, the school's president said Wednesday, marking the latest twist in a protracted fight about a name that critics consider offensive.
A state law requiring the university to use its longtime nickname and logo, which shows the profile of an American Indian warrior, was repealed in November. The university has since been trying to retire the moniker, but nickname supporters filed petitions late Tuesday demanding that the issue be put to a statewide vote.
University President Robert Kelley said the school decided to resume using the name and logo to respect the state's referendum process, which requires the pro-nickname law be in effect while the secretary of state reviews the petition signatures over the next month.
"As soon as that petition was filed last night, the law reverts," Kelley told The Associated Press. "I don't want to violate the law."
The NCAA has told the university that continued use of the nickname and logo would expose the school to sanctions. The school could not host post-season tournaments, and its athletes could not wear uniforms with the logo or nickname in post-season play.
Emails and phone messages left with the NCAA were not immediately returned Wednesday. The university and leaders in Grand Forks, where the school is located, had opposed the law.
Kelley said the men's and women's hockey teams and the women's basketball team have a chance for post-season play in the coming months, and it was unclear how the teams would be affected.