At a charity fund-raiser on June 21, more than a dozen University of Illinois football players wore Indian headdresses after competing in "strong man" challenges to celebrate victories. The event, organized by student group Uplifting Athletes, benefitted the Acoustic Neuroma Association of America and was not sanctioned by the team or the Athletic Department, according to department officials.
Photos of the players wearing the headdresses were posted to the team's Facebook page. University of Illinois Athletics spokesman Kent Brown confirmed for The News-Gazette that the department removed the photos on Tuesday afternoon. Football head coach Tim Beckman plans to speak with the entire team about the situation today. The school's Board of Trustees officially voted in 2007 to drop the Chief Illiniwek mascot, Chief Illiniwek's dance and the use of the Chief or any Native American imagery for the university or its athletic programs. And the Chief won't be returning to campus, despite efforts to make that happen.
"It's something we have to continue to educate everybody about," Brown told The News-Gazette of the school's history regarding Chief Illiniwek.
Brown also told the paper that "no one knew what they were going to do ahead of time. It was totally run and organized by the Uplifting Athletes club."
About $5,000 was raised to help the Acoustic Neuroma Association of America. A former UI football player and current student who works with the football program suffers from acoustic neuroma, which is a benign tumor of the balance or hearing nerves, according to the association.