The College of Florida’s choice to ban the “gator bait” cheer was met with mixed reviews from some former football players on Thursday.
Florida president Kent Fuchs mentioned in a letter the cheer can be banned due to its ties to racism. The cheer contains followers placing their arms right into a chomping movement whereas shouting the college’s slogan.
“While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our ‘Gator Bait’ cheer at UF sporting events, there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase,” Fuchs wrote. “Accordingly University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer.”
The racism hyperlink was drawn from articles from the previous, together with a 1923 Time Journal story which described how “colored babies were being used for alligator bait” in Chipley, Fla.
“The infants are allowed to play in the shallow water while expert riflemen watch from concealment nearby,” the article said. “When a saurian (alligator) approaches this prey, he is shot by the riflemen.” The Chipley Chamber of Commerce responded to the article by calling it a “foolish lie, false and absurd.”
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A 2017 article from The Undefeated additionally laid out a narrative about how black infants had been getting used as gator bait.
The choice to ban the cheer wasn’t precisely met with resounding applause.
“That’s not a good decision, especially when you don’t talk to the person who coined the phrase,” former Gators security Lawrence Wright, who popularized the cheer within the 1990s, advised Gators Territory. “It had nothing to do with infants being fed to alligators. That’s anyone who didn’t go to the College of Florida. We wouldn’t do this.
“When I said it, I didn’t call out for babies. I called out other schools that were gator bait. We were specifically talking about them. Anything that’s not a gator, is gator bait. Doesn’t matter the sport. Even there’s a debate. If you ain’t on our debate team, you gator bait.”
He advised the Gainesville Sun: “I’m not going for it. “I created something for us. It’s a college football thing. It’s not a racist thing, it’s about us, the Gator Nation. And I’m black.”
Wright added that he needed to speak to Fuchs concerning the chant as a result of he feels eradicating “gator bait” doesn’t apply in the identical sense as eradicating different racist statues and symbols.
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Ahmad Black, who performed security for the Gators from 2007 to 2010, had a unique opinion.
“It’s weird because we all know the Gator Bait chant as something to get us going. But that was before we saw the history,” he advised Gators Territory. “Now that we all know and we’re educated on the phrase gator bait, we’ve got a unique stance. I do know Lawrence Wright didn’t imply it like that, clearly.
“But nowadays somebody can hear that chant at a game and take it the wrong way. If I’m a future recruit and I see these images on social media, the Gator Bait chant would bother me. Even though it’s not affiliated with UF and the chant didn’t come from that, I wouldn’t want to go there if the fans kept doing it.”
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Former Florida coach Steve Spurrier advised the Gainesville Solar he understood the logic behind eradicating the cheer.
“It kind of surprised me, but I didn’t know there was anything racial about it,” he mentioned. “But when [Athletic Director] Scott Stricklin told me about some of the history of it, I said, ‘Let’s get rid if it.’”
A Change.org petition to maintain the cheer was additionally created after the announcement got here down.
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“The University of Florida will be discontinuing our time honored tradition of chanting ‘Gator Bait’ at all Athletic events,” the petition’s description learn. “This is due to finding ‘no evidence of racism associated’ with the chant but because racists outside the university would feed black children to Gators. The university admits that there is no racism, but is canceling it anyways. We need to keep our traditions and demand that UF honor them.”