Controversies come and go — and some just never go away. Put the brouhaha over Chief Illiniwek in the latter category.
It’s been 11 years since the University of Illinois’ mascot danced his last dance. The school decided to end the Chief’s tenure as symbol for Fighting Illini sports teams in 2007. That was supposed to end 20 years of wrangling over the caricature — with its feathered headdress, buckskin and war paint in orange and blue.
But more than a decade later, the university remains divided over the Chief. Some think the mascot is a symbol of strength and dignity, a tribute to Illinois’ Native American heritage. Others see the Chief as an expression of cultural insensitivity and racism. And while the school long ago formally fired the Chief, students from time to time have donned the Chief’s garb and appeared at Fighting Illini basketball games and special events.