Chief Illiniwek billboard will stay up for a year

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CHAMPAIGN, IL (WAND) - Attorney John Gadou's love for the University of Illinois dates back for more than 50 years and he's a proud graduate class of 1967. His office is plastered with paraphernalia of a beloved alma mater. 

"I became a fan in 1951," Gadou said. "The university has always meant a lot to me."

One of those items, however, is considered offensive to others, which is Chief Illiniwek. Illiniwek hasn't been the symbol of the university for a decade. It was reported that the university stopped using the mascot under NCAA pressure; many called Illiniwek offensive to American Indians. Two trustees from U of I recently visited the Peoria Tribe in Oklahoma to discuss how to move past the issue. 

"What they're [the university] really looking to do is to bury him [the chief] and make everybody forget about him and it's all over," Gadou said. 

Gadou said his love for his alma mater faded away, but it hasn't for the chief. The attorney paid money for a billboard, located on First and Spring Street, that says "The Chief Yesterday Today Forever". Gadou said many still believe in keeping chief around. However, one student who attends the school, said people have to move on. Fabian Zermeno said the chief is offensive to his native American classmates. 

"A lot of this is keeping the native American people out of the conversation," Zermeno said. "For the ones that I know, they really express how adamant they are about having this type of cultural appropriation." 

However, Gadou said he's yet to meet a native American who wasn't "proud of the chief". The billboard will stay up for a year, however, Gadou said people should expect to see more signs around Campaign. 

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