The Associated Press reports that the University of Minnesota-Duluth has been forced to scold students in a letter sent to season ticket holders after incidents were reported during a hockey game against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
The letter, sent on February 17 by Minnesota-Duluth Athletic Director Bob Nielson, reminded season ticket holders that “any profane, racial, sexist, or abusive comments or actions directed at officials, opposing players or teams” could get them kicked out of the game or even having their season tickets revoked. The Duluth News-Tribune ran a story on the letter this past Tuesday.
The incidents? Students making “war-whooping noises” and chants such as, “Hi, HOW are you?” and “smallpox blankets” during the two-game series between the teams on February 10 and 11.
These reported chants came after North Dakota returned to using the Fighting Sioux nickname after the school had waged an unsuccessful campaign to drop the name. Supporters of the Fighting Sioux mascot had recently gotten enough petition signatures to temporarily restore a state law that had required its use. This issue will eventually fall on North Dakota state voters.
University of North Dakota spokesman Peter Johnson told the The Associated Press via email that North Dakota’s “name and its imagery have been used at other schools in ways that are inappropriate.”
Johnson said the university agrees that “inappropriate chants or cheers” have no place in college athletics and supports any “institution that works with its fans to bring some civility and focus on positive cheering.”
Nielson’s letter to the students made it clear he felt the chants were hostile and racist.
“We decided it was an opportunity to reinforce our policy . to focus on cheering for our team and avoid comments that are considered inappropriate,” Nielson told the Duluth News-Tribune.