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State

Lawyer's billboard supports UI Chief Illiniwek mascot

University of Illinois mascot Chief Illiniwek performs his last dance at halftime during the Fighting Illini's Feb. 21, 2007 game against Michigan in Champaign.
University of Illinois mascot Chief Illiniwek performs his last dance at halftime during the Fighting Illini's Feb. 21, 2007 game against Michigan in Champaign.

CHAMPAIGN (AP) – A billboard supporting the controversial former mascot of the University of Illinois has resurfaced after a decade-long hiatus.

Attorney John Gadau resurrected the billboard supporting the Chief Illiniwek mascot last month, The News-Gazette reported. The billboard says “The Chief, yesterday, today, forever.” Gadau said he can use the space for a year.

“If nobody likes it, that’s fine,” Gadau said. “If everybody likes it, that’s fine. But it’s my billboard, politically correct or not.”

Gadau first posted the billboard in 2007, after the university stopped using the mascot under NCAA pressure as many people called the portrayal offensive to American Indians.

A 2013 push to reinvent the mascot ultimately didn’t garner support.

Two university trustees recently visited the Peoria Tribe in Oklahoma to discuss how to move past the issue.

Stephen Kaufman, a emeritus professor at the university, has been a longtime opponent of the Chief Illiniwek mascot. He wrote a letter to University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Robert Jones that said calls for the reinstatement of the mascot have grown despite Jones’ efforts.

“The most meaningful actions you can currently take to end this truly sad and harmful chapter in UIUC history is to move without further delay to establish a new mascot, and have the Marching Illini prepare for a new season that does not include any reference to the Illiniwek tradition,” Kaufman wrote.

Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said Jones is committed to finding “a path forward together,” but declined to comment further on the billboard.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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