For the past few decades, there has been a push from high school to the NFL to retire Native American mascots and replace them with something more culturally appropriate. That movement has really seemed to have picked up at times over the past several years.
A number high school mascots have opted for change, while (despite the pressure) far fewer have changed at the college and professional level
Teams like the Washington Redskins and others at the college level have resisted the push to change despite public outcry to do so, while the 1990’s saw changes made to mascots at Eastern Michigan (Hurons to Eagles), Marquette (Warriors to Golden Eagles) and Miami of Ohio (Redskins to Redhawks).
More recently, the NCAA decided to sanction 19 schools in 2005 with “hostile and abusive” mascots stating that schools would not be able to use their names and logos in post season play and would not be able to host post-season championships. Shortly after that, ULM went from Indians to WarHawks in 2006, Arkansas State switched from the Indians to the Red Wolves in 2008, and North Dakota went from the Fighting Sioux to the Fighting Hawks back in 2013.
At Illinois, the school removed Chief Illiniwek as their official mascot back in 2007, but athletic teams are still referred to as the Fighting Illini.
That may all be about to change though.
According to some recent chatter on social media, Illinois is making a push to replace the Fighting Illini mascot with a new one – the Kingfisher. The Student government just voted 41-0 in favor of putting it on the campus ballot, and in a few weeks university students will have an opportunity to vote to make the Kingfisher the Illini mascot of the future.
A Kingfish is predatory bird with a huge 22-inch wingspan that is native to Illinois all year round, and is also colored blue and orange. Seems like a logical fit.
What would a Kingfish mascot look like though? That’s where the creative minds of social media have stepped up with some pretty cool ideas.
— Mike Honcho (@Ibrah_1996) February 22, 2020
Some have even come up with some decent merchandising ideas…
🔶🔷🔶🔷 Chief the Eagle. pic.twitter.com/bi4Vy9dIPw
— 🅰🄻🄲🄰🄽🅃🄰🅁🄰 🅴🄳🄸🅃🅂 (@AlcantaraEdits) February 22, 2020
Judging from the comments of those tweets and knowing college football fans as good as anyone, the reaction to the changing of a beloved mascot name hasn’t been overwhelming good, but if Illini were to change the Kingfish actually seems like a pretty good option.
Back in March of 2019 a new mascot vote was brought to the student body at Illinois suggesting the mascot be changed to Alma Otter. That one failed by a vote of 3,807-3,510.
Surely, this has a whole lot more red tape to go through, but a mascot change in the Big Ten isn’t all that far fetched.