Florida will no longer use 'Gator Bait' cheer due to phrase's 'horrific racist imagery'
The University of Florida will no longer use its "Gator Bait" cheer at its sporting events, UF President Kent Fuchs said in a letter to the university community on Thursday.
The letter contained detailed measures that the university plans to take "to make positive changes against racism". Fuchs said in his letter that the "terrible racist images" associated with the phrase "Gator Bait" prompted the school to stop cheering immediately.
"Although I know of no evidence of racism associated with our 'Gator Bait' cheers at UF sporting events, there are terrible historical racist images associated with the phrase. Accordingly, University Athletics and the Gator Band will stop using the jubilation, ”Fuchs wrote.
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According to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia from Ferris State University, black babies were used as "alligator baits" in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum's website quotes a number of newspaper articles (including this piece from The Undefeated from 2016) and images from that period. The term "alligator bait" was "used as a racist charge against African Americans".
The cheers and song "Gator Bait" have been popular at sporting events in Florida for decades and are often accompanied by the Gator Gomp Chomp. The famous Chomp is not mentioned in Fuchs' statement.
Fuchs, who specifically pointed to George Floyd's murder as a catalyst for change, said Florida plans to train students and staff on racism, inclusion, and bias, and the 2020-21 academic year on "the experience of blacks, racism, and Inequality ”. ”Fuchs' letter also emphasized the emphasis on“ representation, inclusion, opportunities and accountability ”.
In addition, a task force will be set up to document the history of the university's relationship with race and ethnicity, particularly with African Americans and Native Americans. Another task force is tasked with checking the naming of buildings and monuments on campus. In particular, Fuchs said he was "personally obliged" to remove monuments or names that "celebrate the Confederation or its leaders".
“It is time for UF to get involved in this challenging, unpleasant transformation. We know that we cannot reverse the lives of injustice and racism, but we believe that we can make progress in terms of education, promoting truth, reconciliation and justice, as well as anti-racism, equality and the eradication of inequalities. " wrote Fuchs.
A general view of the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood / Getty Images)
As in Florida, universities like Georgia, UNLV, and Virginia have made some changes related to racial inequality. Meanwhile, athletes in schools such as Texas, Texas A&M, and South Carolina have called for changes to decades of tradition or long-standing campus monuments, while soccer players in Iowa and the state of Oklahoma have called their coaches.
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