A day before Friday's homecoming parade, university officials overturned a ban on any likeness of Illiniwek, an American Indian in a feathered headdress, in floats. The decision allows pictures to be used.
Chancellor Richard Herman consulted with attorneys and other university officials last week and decided the policy for homecoming restricted free speech.
"It's a freedom of speech, freedom of expression issue," university spokeswoman Robin Kaler said Sunday. "The university places great value on those two things."
Illiniwek's image appeared on several floats at the rainy Friday night parade. No protesters showed up.
In February, the university retired the mascot, which led the NCAA to lift sanctions that had barred Illinois from hosting postseason sports since 2005.
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Those in favor say the mascot, portrayed by a buckskin-clad student at sporting events, honors both American Indians and Illini sports. But opponents say the chief and his dance are demeaning and racist.
It was unclear whether the university's ruling on homecoming floats would have any weight on the NCAA's decision to lift the sanctions. A message left Sunday for NCAA officials was not immediately returned.
[The Associated Press]
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