Lumbee Indians started the school and picked the nickname long before it was open to everyone, but the NCAA believes the Native American theme is controversial. UNC-Pembroke has until May 1 to prove otherwise.
"It's always been Braves. That's what our school's about," student Shannon Gentry said.
School officials are fighting to keep the name.
"About half of our senior administration is Native American. The overwhelming majority of our alumni is Native American. Twenty percent of our student body is Native American," UNC-Pembroke athletic director Dan Kenney said.
UNC-Pembroke is not the only example in college or pro sports. The Atlanta Braves, the Washington Redskins and the Florida State Seminoles are just three teams that draw from American Indians.
"I don't think it's offensive because the university was founded in 1887 by the Lumbee for the Lumbee. What better way to depict our culture than with the logo that's representing of us," said Lawrence Locklear, of the Lumbee Tribal Council.
There is no word on what happens if UNC-Pembroke does not prove its case, but school officials said changing the name could be expensive.
Colleges are not the only ones under pressure to change mascots. Forty-three high schools in North Carolina still have Native American mascots. Last week, Oxford Webb High School in Granville County debuted its new mascot. The school will keep the nickname "Warriors," but dropped the Native American mascot in favor of a science fiction-looking character.
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