On Aug. 28, the University of Illinois publicly announced that the war chant would no longer be played at University of Illinois sporting events. The decision was made at the end of last year’s football season, but was not made public until August.
To some, this significant change in the game day playlist is another blow to Illini Athletics and its fan base. To others, it’s a belated and necessary change that reflects the progressiveness of the University as a whole.
Uni High history teacher Andrew Wilson believes that it was not only a necessary change, but reflects a trend in the sports world as well.
“I think it’s a good thing, it’s culturally insensitive, and I think it’s a good thing to get rid of the war chant,” he said.
Uni High senior Kat Williams has been a fan of Illini athletics her whole life, but she understands and agrees with the song’s removal. She can sympathize with those who have been lifelong fans, but feels that a change was needed. She hopes that they can find a new song to play during breaks, however.
“I guess like at the game [against Ball State], it was just really awkward. Cause it was just silent. Like I was hoping they would come up with something to replace it, but they didn’t,” Williams said.
The University of Illinois has had a history of controversial traditions in and around sporting events. Some of these are still prevalent, such as Chief Illiniwek. The removal of the 81-year-old mascot was controversial among Illini sports fans in 2007, and it has not been forgotten. Fans can still be heard crying out for the chief at various sporting events, although to no avail.
Williams continues to join in on the outcry, but doesn’t really want to see the former mascot’s performance.
“I don’t want to see the chief come out and do his racist little dance in the middle of the field or whatever, but if I see like a guy walking around in the chief outfit I’ll be like, ‘hey, nostalgia’, but it’s super racist,” she said.
Uni High senior Ellie Breen agrees with the changes, even though she was too young to see the chief.
“I never was there when they actually had it, because… I was too young, … so I don’t really notice the difference, but I think that there are some people there who, you know, they’re wearing chief shirts, they’re obviously, like probably angry about it. The song – personally I think it’s a good song, but personally I wouldn’t have it just because of the connotations. I don’t think it’s worth it,” Breen said.
Here’s a recording of the chant, performed by the University of Illinois marching band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJp1uB1RvlY.
With Illini athletics just beginning, time will tell if the war chant will be replaced with another song. For now, the Illini fan base will need to adjust to the silence during timeouts and game breaks.