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PHOTO: Illini wear headdresses, face paint at charity event

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

Illinois coach Tim Beckman says he will speak to his players but not reprimand them after a photo of nearly 20 Illini players wearing headdresses and face paint at a charity fundraiser was temporarily displayed on the team's Facebook page.

Though the event was held at Illinois' Memorial Stadium, it was organized by student group Uplifting Athletes and not sanctioned by the athletic program. The photo was quickly removed from the Illini's Facebook page but has been published at The Champaign Room and other outlets:

"When dealing with the Chief and things involved in this program, in this university, we need to make sure we understand everything that's involved in that," Beckman (who was not present at the event) told the local News-Gazette. "When making decisions on this, we need to make sure we're making it in a way that's right for the university. Everything we do, we do for the university."

The issue of Native American imagery remains a controversial topic on Illinois' campus, where the threat of NCAA sanctions led to the 2007 retirement of mascot Chief Illiniwek over vehement protests from portions of the Illini fan base.

While emphasizing that the players "have the right to their own opinions," Illinois athletics spokesman Kent Brown also told the News-Gazette that the use of headdresses and face paint at the charity event "is something we're aware of and it's something they will be made more sensitive to."

The event -- a kind of strongman competition in which the players interacted with fans -- reportedly raised approximately $5,000 for the Acoustic Neuroma Association of America.

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