FORT TOTTEN, ND – Speaking at the tribal headquarters of the Spirit Lake Sioux Nation, attorney Reed Soderstrom announced a lawsuit against the NCAA alleging copyright infringement and civil rights violations. The Sioux tribe supports the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo, but the NCAA has deemed them to be “hostile and abusive.”
“Today, the Spirit Lake Tribe of Indians, by and through its Committee of Understanding and Respect, and Archie Fool Bear, individually, and as Representative of more than 1004 Petitioners of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, filed a lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association in direct response to their attempt to take away and prevent the North Dakota Sioux Indians from giving their name forever to the University of North Dakota,” said Soderstrom in prepared remarks.
Soderstrom alleges that the NCAA has violated “the religious and first amendment rights of the Dakota Sioux tribes.” He also alleged a double standard in the application of the NCAA’s policy against the use of Native American names and imagery.
“Though the NCAA has decided ‘Fighting Sioux’ is derogatory, the NCAA supports the University of Illinois’ use of the name ‘Fighting Illini,’ and the use by Florida State University of the name ‘Seminoles’ along with the Seminole mascot – someone dressed in Native American attire who rides into the FSU stadium on a horse and throws a flaming spear before every home football game,” said Soderstrom. “The NCAA claims these are not derogatory depictions because the Illini people and the Seminole people approve of the use of the name and mascot. Inexplicably, the NCAA fails to accept the tribal vote and the sacred religious ceremony as endorsements of the name ‘Fighting Sioux’ by the North Dakota Sioux Nation.”
The lawsuit claims that the Sioux tribe were “indispensable parties” to a lawsuit filed by the State of North Dakota against the NCAA in 2007, the settlement of which required the state to get permission from the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux tribes, but were never included in negotiations of that settlement. It also alleges defamation, violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act, defamation and an unlawful restraint on trade.
The lawsuit asks that the NCAA’s policy be stricken and that the organization pay punitive damages in the amount of $10 million.
Earlier this year the North Dakota legislature passed a law ordering the University of North Dakota to keep the “Fighting Sioux” nickname despite NCAA sanctions. The bill was signed into law by Governor Jack Dalrymple, but after a meeting between state officials and NCAA leadership in Indiana Dalrymple and other state leaders feel the law should be repealed in an upcoming special session of the legislature.