Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, is probably right when he says a bill requiring the University of North Dakota to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo would be popular with lawmakers and the state's residents.
Carlson's bill, which has yet to be introduced at the North Dakota Legislature, would require UND to retain the Sioux nickname and logo, and would require Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to consider filing an antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA if it tries to punish UND for keeping the nickname.
We don't doubt the bill would be popular with North Dakotans. But there's one little problem: The North Dakota Constitution clearly gives the State Board of Higher Education full authority over the institutions of higher learning in the state.
In other words, the Legislature doesn't have a say in the matter, unless lawmakers want to amend the Constitution. We're not sure a university nickname squabble rises to the level of requiring a change to the Constitution.
The NCAA in 2005 deemed the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo "hostile and abusive." The state sued, and in 2007 settled with the NCAA. UND agreed to drop the nickname after three years if the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes did not endorse the name. Spirit Lake held a vote, with 67 percent supporting the name. Standing Rock has no plans to hold a vote. William Goetz, chancellor of the university system, ordered UND to begin transitioning away from the name and logo. UND plans to eliminate most uses of the nickname by August.
Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock, said he plans to introduce a separate bill that says UND may not drop the nickname or logo unless the Standing Rock tribe holds a referendum and tribal voters deny UND permission.
We understand the passion that surrounds the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo on both sides of the issue but that can't replace the reality of the situation as it stands today: The Legislature has no say in this issue, according to the North Dakota Constitution. While these bills may prove popular, they're also unrealistic.