- The Washington Times - Monday, January 6, 2003

DENVER Don't be surprised if the hottest ticket in college basketball this season turns out to be a match between the Fighting Whites and the North American Stealers.
The pride of the University of Northern Colorado, the Whites won only two games in their intramural basketball league last year, but their idea of turning the tables on schools with American Indian mascot names has spread like wildfire.
Students at a handful of colleges across the rural West and Indian country are considering forming their own Fighting Whites-style intramural teams this season, inspired by the success of the team, first planned as "the Fightin' Whities," in drawing national media attention to the mascot issue.
"There's talk about whether we want to start a Fighting Whites team ourselves. We're working on it," said Monique Volland, a law student at the University of North Dakota who works at the school's Native Media Center.
Publicity about the Fighting Whites gave a boost to those who have lobbied for years to change the name of the University of North Dakota's mascot, the Fighting Sioux.
"It was huge when [the Whites] first came out," she said. "We recognize they've added to our support. They've drawn a lot of attention to the issue."
Inspired by the Whites, North Dakota students created a stir in October with an art exhibit at the university's International Center. The show displayed dozens of jerseys from hockey, football and other sports, some real and some with mock names such as the "North American Stealers," "Wounded Knee Crusaders" and "Cleveland Honkies."
A few were more incendiary, such as one showing a hooded Klansman under the name "Atlanta White Devils" and the "Vatican City Popes 'n' Pedophiles."
Charles Cuny, last year's Fighting Whites captain, said the players had hoped to encourage teams at other schools by providing them with free T-shirts. The Whites raised more than $100,000 last year selling team shirts, which depict a 1950s-style Ozzie Nelson look-alike, on the Internet.
But the players decided against it for legal reasons, he said.
"We're a nonprofit now, and I think that would be illegal because we say all the money goes toward scholarships," Mr. Cuny said.
The team donated $100,000 to the Colorado university last month to cover scholarships for American Indian students and make a contribution to the main endowment. The Whites sold more than 15,000 shirts and hats, which soon became must-have fashion statements on regional campuses and reservations.
"They're all over the place," said Miss Volland, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians in Belcourt, N.D. "I've seen people wearing them on my reservation. Even faculty members are wearing them."
Even if the franchise effort falls through, the team can point to a string of accomplishments. Since the Fighting Whites captured the spotlight last season, at least 20 high schools and one college, Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, have jettisoned their American Indian mascots, said Solomon Little Owl, director of Native American Student Services at the University of Northern Colorado.
For schools that can't afford to change mascots, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., New Jersey Democrat, in September introduced the Native Act to Transform Images in Various Environments. Known as the NATIVE bill, it would establish a grant program to pay for repainting stadiums, gymnasiums and other costs associated with switching mascots.
"It's great we're educating people about mascot stereotypes," said Mr. Little Owl, who also plays point guard for the team.
Whether people are actually changing their minds or just enjoying the joke is not clear.
The Whites concede that some T-shirt buyers missed the point and saw them as a statement of white pride. Likewise, when a conservative Web site, FreeRepublic.com, ran a story about the North Dakota art exhibit, it was flooded with responses from readers asking where to buy the jerseys.
"Cleveland Honkies! Where do I buy it? I think I'd pay $100 for a jersey so emblazoned. I'm completely serious," said one e-mailer.
Others came up with suggestions of their own, such as the "Arkansas Beer-Bellies" and "California Commies."
One school that hasn't budged on the issue is Eaton High School, home of the Fightin' Reds, the Colorado school that inspired the Fighting Whites. But Mr. Little Owl hasn't given up hope.
"Eaton hasn't changed. They're being stubborn. They're still scrambling over the beating they took in the media last year," said Mr. Little Owl. "But this is a young campaign, and I think it has a bright future."

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