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North Dakota voters overwhelmingly reject ‘Fighting Sioux’ nickname

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Voters in North Dakota delivered a strong rebuke of their state university’s divisive “Fighting Sioux” nickname on Tuesday, voting more than two-to-one to allow for it to be phased out.

Buck Striebel holds up a University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux T-shirt . (James MacPherson — Associated Press)

The move could lead to a further review of such American Indian-themed mascots — including from pro sports teams like the Washington Redskins.

Supporters of the University of North Dakota’s mascot have pushed for it to stay even as the NCAA has threatened sanctions that include a ban on holding postseason games in their facilities and even forfeit if they don the nickname or logo in postseason play.

With that hanging over their head, the state legislature voted to allow for the change and school officials have begun to embrace it. But some in the state swear by the nickname and are doing whatever they can to save it.

Tuesday’s vote, though, will make that quest significantly harder. Even as those supporters push for another ballot measure in the November election — a constitutional amendment to keep the nickname — it’s become pretty clear that it won’t pass.

Fully 67 percent of voters voted against repealing the state legislature’s bill, while 33 percent supported repeal. In other words, less than one-third voted to keep the nickname.

With two-thirds of voters in a conservative state voting against the controversial mascot, it may raise the question of whether public opinion is shifting on the issue.

But in North Dakota, the vote may have been more practical than moral. After all, by continuing to use the nickname, the school’s sports teams and the university as a whole may have lost out on both achievement and the money that comes with it.

School officials also worried about how the nickname might affect recruiting and their standing in the Big Sky Conference.

Teams like the Redskins don’t face such sanctions by continuing to use their nicknames, so they’re likely to stick it out longer than the University of North Dakota did.

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