Bernstein: Josh Whitman’s Rambling Letter Highlights U Of I’s Problem

By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman’s “Open Letter” addressing the end of the use of the “War Chant” took 754 words to explain something that needed just a couple sentences.

Written apparently as much for himself as for the Illini fans, Whitman took 224 of those words as a preamble, just to provide a list of personal credentials and connections to establish some kind of legitimacy, like a sports radio caller compelled to announce how long he’s had season tickets in an effort to elevate his thoughts about punt coverage.

It was all an apparent attempt to explain, yet again, the latest overdue decision to drop some kind of insulting native American imagery connected to a sporting event. Whitman is still speaking to the retrograde side of the school’s culture divide, twisting himself into knots to tell mouth-breathers they’re on the wrong end of history.

Dude, you’re the AD. Make a decision and move on. Whatever the next issue — a dumb song, a third-down chant or some bozo clowning around in buckskin, just get rid of it and and let the call stand for itself. Inoculating against stupid is a waste of time that only calls more undeserved attention to the ongoing wrongheadedness.

But undeterred, Whitman felt the need to blather about mission statements, timeless traditions and “our march up the mountain together.” He never really defines the issue, diffusing it in a disconnected wash of misplaced emotion and branding jargon.

It’s like Tim Beckman left his coffee cup in the office and Whitman has been drinking out of it.

As Shannon Ryan argued convincingly in the Chicago Tribune on Saturday, it’s well past time for this kind of equivocation and piecemeal remodeling of their embarrassing imagery. Whitman, the school officials above him and the Board of Trustees should long ago have simply changed the mascot, handled a little blowback and been done with it.

Marquette did it, St. Johns did it, Syracuse did it. And so did Stanford, Dartmouth, Miami of Ohio and others. There will be the usual threats of pulled donations and boycotts, and then everybody forgets about it.

The fact that such an overblown treatise like this even exists in 2017 is the best evidence yet of how far behind the times Illinois remains.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter  @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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