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Opponents call use of Chief Illiniwek 'outrageous'

CHICAGO -- Opponents of University of Illinois mascot Chief
Illiniwek sued the school's trustees Tuesday, claiming the
buckskin-clad figure perpetuates a racial stereotype.

In its lawsuit, the Illinois Native American Bar Association and
two individuals seek to force the school to stop using the Chief as
its sports mascot.

"The use of this mascot is outrageous. It's been going on way
too long and it should come to an end," said Kim Edward Cook,
association president.

The Chief is a 78-year-old tradition in which a student dresses
in buckskins and headdress and dances at sports events. The suit
alleges the mascot violates Indians' rights under state law and
violates the board's own policies against discrimination.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the university said it is not
violating any discrimination laws or its own anti-discrimination
policies.

"University counsel will thoroughly review the plaintiffs' suit
and respond appropriately," the statement said. "Meantime, the
Board of Trustees continues to move forward with its process aimed
at reaching a consensus conclusion to the Chief Illiniwek issue."

The Chief has been a divisive issue at the school for years.
Supporters say the mascot is a symbol of reverence for the
contribution of American Indians to Illinois history while
opponents say it is racially offensive and demeaning.

Stephen Naranjo, a University of Illinois at Chicago student, is
among the plaintiffs.

"[Naranjo] feels embarrassed about his heritage being reduced
to a halftime sporting event entertainment," the suit said.