Friday, September 22, 2006

Legion of Doom Nominee: Ralph Engelstad

Ralph Engelstad was the multi-millionaire owner of the Imperial Palace casinos in Las Vegas and in Biloxi Mississippi but is perhaps more well-known around these parts for his $100M donation to build a state of the art hockey arena for the University of North Dakota. While that might sound like a case of very generous philanthropy, unbefitting a LOD nominee, read on.

The mascot of the University of North Dakota is the Fighting Sioux. In the late nineties, there was a push throughout the NCAA to change team mascots with racist nicknames/logos. Engelstad embroiled himself in the fight over the Fighting Sioux logo when, during the height of the controversy, he pledged to build a $100 million arena on the UND campus for the hockey program. Midway through construction, it appeared that the university was going to make a name change. Engelstad threatened to withdraw his funding of the then half-finished arena if the sports teams were renamed. The logo was then placed in thousands of instances in the arena, making the prospect of removal a costly measure. Later, Engelstad placed the stadium under private (rather than University) management and stipulated that the Fighting Sioux motif be kept indefinitely. An Engelstad family trust continues to own the arena and rents it to the University. It is rumored that if a name change is pushed through, the trust will have the building razed.

Pretty sneaky sis! But really, what’s an obstructionist, racist, asshole if he doesn’t have a Hitler fetish? In what is becoming a common theme amongst old white nominees, Ralph may take the cake. His Hitlerphilia was discovered in a secret shrine in his casino. According to our good friends at Wikipedia:

His collection of Nazi memorabilia in the casino included a painting of himself dressed in Nazi uniform (captioned "to Adolf from Ralphie"), a painting of Hitler with the reverse caption, and the cars of Nazi leaders. On April 20th in 1986 and 1988, he hosted birthday parties for Adolf Hitler at his casino in Las Vegas which featured bartenders in T-shirts reading "Adolf Hitler — European tour 1939-45". Because of this, in 1989, the Nevada Gaming Commission fined Engelstad $1.5 million for "actions that damaged the reputation and image of Nevada's gaming industry."

Are you kidding me? This man was fined $1.5 million dollars for damaging the reputation and image of Nevada's gaming industry. From what I gleaned watching the movie Casino - that's not an easy image to tarnish. Still, the UND board of trustees took his donation and voted 8-0 to keep the racist nickname. A decision it turns out that may bite them in the ass. As of February 1, 2006, the NCAA will no longer allow any school to participate in any tournament if it uses nicknames or mascots that they consider abusive or hostile on team uniforms.

NoDak may have to take the image off the uniforms but "The Ralph" and it's giant bronze statue of Engelstad will ensure that a financially dependent school will keep vestiges of the racist logo around long after the issue should have gone away. Thanks, Ralph.


Badcock said...
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Badcock said...

What's the big deal? Fighting Sioux harkens back to an Arcadian time: after the Spanish introduced horses but before the invention of the machine gun. It's much more culturally affirming to cheer for the Fighting Sioux than the North Dakota Highest Suicide Rate Among Any Ethnic Group in the Nation but Still a Proud People

Anonymous said...

Here is something mysterious for somebody to dig into: nobody knows who created that American Indian statue out in front of Ralph Engelstad Arena. All the Engelstad people will say is that Ralph bought it at an art auction. They seem to be hiding something. My theory is it was created in Germany during the Third Reich and that's why they refuse to disclose the origins but what would be really helpful would be to somehow simply discover its maker and origins.

Anonymous said...

"What's the big deal? Fighting Sioux harkens back..."

The name isn't the issue. The psychopath with the big checkbook making the decisions for American Higher Learning is.

If I came in with twice the donation money Ralph came in with to trump him and change the name, I would be making the same mistake with the same argument: One man with one checkbook made the decision, be it Ralph or Me.

That i$ wrong.

The issue of whether the name was moral, questionable, or offensive became moot the minute big money got involved, and thank God for it as it was a simpler matter then.

*Pats Ralphie on the Head* Nice work, Psycho. Thank you for making it easier for us to hate you and easier to finally push the name change.

I don't care if they end up being the "Flying Pink Ironing Boards" of UND as long as the proper authorities have a place in making the decision. If you know the whole story, saying, "... the UND board of trustees took his donation and voted 8-0 to keep the racist nickname" rules out all the influence that Ralph had on the board prior to that vote. A vote that, before he made his threats and had a tantrum with his checkbook, was slated to be in favor of removing the nickname.

Greater forces are at work here than "Sioux" or "Redskins" and those that do or don't have a problem with it.

Issere said...

That's always easy :) Thanks, your point of view is not far from mine