The University of Illinois will no longer play “war chant” music during sporting events, ending a tradition that stemmed from the school’s former mascot Chief Illiniwek.
The decision to stop using the music was made at the end of last football season, athletic department spokesman Kent Brown said Friday. It wasn’t publicized until Thursday when athletic department representatives asked members of the student group Illini Pride to stop playing the song on a drum at a soccer game. The school’s band, the Marching Illini, had played the cadence at football games.
Illinois made the decision in an effort to be more inclusive and because students haven’t responded to it as much at football games recently, Brown said.
“There are people who felt that was an offensive Native American chant or music,” Brown said. “Another big part of that was that we had used it on third-down situations and our fan reaction to that was not as good as when we used our video board to prompt our fans.”
American Indians and the NCAA pushed the university for years to do away with Chief Illiniwek, which had been portrayed since 1926 by a student in a buckskin costume who danced at football and basketball games and other events. Many American Indians found those dances and the portrayal offensive.
NCAA sanctions imposed in 2005 barred Illinois from hosting postseason events. Two years later, in 2007, the university retired the chief. Those who support the Chief Illiniwek tradition have maintained that the mascot was meant to show respect to American Indians.