- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 17, 2002

DENVER Colorado's Fightin' Whities have launched a Web site to sell jerseys to their fans, and they're selling like hotcakes among the same white people they were hoping to offend.
The University of Northern Colorado intramural basketball team already has more than 5,000 requests for T-shirts, tank tops and jerseys with its distinctive mascot, an Ozzie Nelson-style white man with the motto, "Every thang's gonna be all white."
"It's a little overwhelming," said Charles Cuny, a team founder and member of the Oglala Lakota tribe.
The decision to market Fightin' Whities jerseys came after the team drew national attention last week for its name, which was chosen to send a message about racist sports mascots. Several team players are Indian and had become involved in opposition to a local mascot, the Eaton High School's Fightin' Reds.
Instead, the university's Native American Student Services found itself deluged with requests for jerseys with the team's distinctive logo. The team launched a Web site last Friday, www.cafepress.com/fightinwhite, that features seven different shirt styles with the motto and mascot.
Solomon Little Owl, a team player and the service center's director, was initially hesitant about marketing T-shirts, saying he was uncomfortable with profiting from the team's name. In a compromise, the team decided last week to donate any profits from shirt sales to scholarships for Indian students.
Funds from the sales will first be transferred to the team's newly formed nonprofit account, said Mr. Cuny.
"The money's going to go to education, whether that means starting a fund here at the university or sending it to the Native American Scholarship fund," said Mr. Cuny. "Either way, it's going to further the education of Native American students."
The team became a national phenomenon last week after several networks and newspapers, including The Washington Times, featured stories on its white-man mascot. Jay Leno of NBC-TV's "The Tonight Show" told a joke about the Fightin' Whities, asking, "Wasn't that the name of the Republican Party?"
Reaction to the name continues to be mostly positive, although the university has objected to the name, accusing the team of fighting one derogatory name with another. But most Greeley residents seem to be taking the Whities with a sense of humor.
"Somebody better tell Little Owl to get that logo copyrighted. He's sitting on a damn fortune. I want a Fightin' Whitie jersey myself," said one e-mailer to the Greeley Tribune.
Another self-identified Caucasian said, "I still think this is cool. But I want a white woman mascot next."
All joking aside, the Whities' message may be hitting its mark. Some students at Eaton High School began a petition drive last week to switch the mascot from the Fightin' Reds to the Beavers, although the school board has no plans to consider such a change.
The university's objections aside, Mr. Cuny said he's gotten almost no negative feedback. "Most of my professors and the students I go to school with think the message has been positive," he said.
"We're just trying to promote a message of communication and understanding," he said.


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