During the third quarter of the Homecoming football game Saturday, Oct. 23, Miami University senior Victor Kopen was asked to leave for wearing a Native American headdress.
Kopen said he had been politely asked earlier in the game to remove the headdress by an usher who claimed his attire was against university policy.
Upon learning the usher was unaware of any rule prohibiting his attire, Kopen kept the headdress on.
Kopen said friends went to throw him up in the air following a touchdown in the third quarter when he was approached by another usher who shouted, “You’re done, that’s it, you’ve got to leave!”
Kopen was surprised by the incident.
“I was there to cheer on Miami, not break a rule or make a statement,” Kopen said. “I was just doing it for tradition, especially since many alumni identify themselves as Redskins and it was Homecoming.”
Kopen said he tried to remain calm and politely asked for an explanation, but eventually left when the usher threatened to get the police.
Kopen said on his way out with a friend, the usher took the headdress off his head and refused to give it back until his friend caught up to the usher and his boss and explained the situation.
A friend of Kopen, junior Adam Dietrich, said the usher’s behavior seemed ridiculous and noted the headdress had been worn to home sporting events for at least four years and he had never received a negative reaction.
Miami University Police Department (MUPD) Lt. Ben Spilman was unaware of previous incidents and said police officers are only at sporting events for traffic control and public safety.
“Typically, law enforcement only gets involved with ejection (of an attendee) if they’re causing a disturbance or there’s an open container of alcohol or if the event staff is having an uncooperative party,” Spilman said. “We’re essentially there for public safety reasons.”
Assistant Athletic Director Keanah Smith was not aware someone had been kicked out of the Homecoming game.
With respect to university policy on Native American attire, Smith said inauthentic Native American attire is discouraged and event staff may ask people to remove such costumes.
“We try to be sensitive to the (Miami) tribe, but we’ve never asked anyone to leave (an event) for wearing a headdress,” Smith said.
According to an April 2009 statement from Daryl Baldwin, Myaamia Project director, the project respects the university’s decision to change the mascot.
“It is our hope that the remnants of the Redskin mascot will survive only in the archives of Miami University’s museums and historical archives as an educational tool for future generations,” Baldwin said.
However, Kopen said the mascot still presents mixed signals. The old logo is still displayed at many of the athletic venues on Miami’s campus.
Kopen said he doesn’t believe in trying to erase past traditions.
“We’re dedicated to Miami sports at a time when not too many people are, and school spirit doesn’t seem to be a high priority,” Kopen said. “The Redskin/RedHawk dichotomy is fine, but policymakers shouldn’t try to erase past traditions.”