The North Dakota Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block a statewide referendum in June on whether the University of North Dakota should maintain its "Fighting Sioux" nickname, The Grand Forks Herald reported. The name has offended many Native Americans for years (though others have endorsed it and many of the university's athletic fans are passionate about it). The National Collegiate Athletic Association has imposed sanctions on colleges with such names and that has led the university's leaders, with some reluctance, to agree to change the name. But state lawmakers intervened with a law blocking a name change, and when they reversed themselves, an item was placed on the June ballot to preserve the name.
Robert Kelley, president of the University of North Dakota, issued a statement after the Supreme Court announced that it would not block a state vote. "Now that the North Dakota Supreme Court has made its decision, it is important that the voters of North Dakota become fully educated about the potential ramifications of their vote on this issue in June," he said. "[I]f the referendum is passed in June, the University of North Dakota will remain under NCAA sanctions and that this will have a damaging effect on UND’s athletics teams, and will compromise recruitment, scheduling and UND’s relationship with other collegiate athletics programs.