Billboard claims loyalty to Chief Illiniwek mascot

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Photo from The News-Gazette Photo from The News-Gazette

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WAND) – A pro-Chief Illiniwek billboard has appeared on the University of Illinois campus.

The school is currently involved in “critical conversation” initiatives in an effort to move the campus community forward. Controversy about the nature of the mascot has been around at the U of I since the 2000s. In 2007, the official chief mascot was removed.

Attorney John Gadau, who put up the billboard on Springfield Avenue and west of First Street, told The News-Gazette the “critical conversation” effort is “a waste of time and money”. He decided to post the billboard years after printing 53,000 bumper stickers with the same message.

It says: “The Chief yesterday, yesterday, forever.”

Stephen Kaufman, an opponent of the Chief mascot, equated the billboard’s slogan to “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” – a message given in former Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s inaugural speech in 1963. Kaufman says Wallace speechwriter Asa Earl Carter was part of the Ku Klux Klan.

Gadau told the paper the idea that his billboard could be compared to the Klan is “balderdash”, adding that “it’s my billboard, politically correct or not”.

U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler would not comment on the billboard when The News-Gazette approached her,  but added that the U of I chancellor is “laser-focused” on bringing people together to find a “path forward”.

>>Related: U of I professor pushes for complete ban of Chief Illiniwek

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