Hey Reb! is the name of a statue that stood outside of the UNLV alumni center and was recently removed, put on a flatbed, and given back to its donor.
Kind of a weird story out west, since the school wasn’t even founded until a century after the Civil War ended, but the “Rebel” nickname seems to be coming under scrutiny in the wake of the George Floyd protests and demonstrations.
Here’s a letter from the university president explaining what exactly is going on here:
“That includes the future of our mascot.”
Interestingly enough, the mascot itself is not racist. Deadspin, of all websites, actually debunked that in a story written in 2015, before all of their writers quit, titled The Curious Case Of UNLV’s Not-Racist Mascot.
In the story, Tom Ley shares the results of a campus study into the school’s past, writing this:
“From afar, Hey Reb! sure seems pretty racist. UNLV students have long referred to themselves as Rebels, and the student newspaper was not only called the Rebel Yell in the 50s and 60s but boasted a Confederate flag in its banner. The football team played the 1968 season with the Confederate battle flag on its helmets, and the mascot that preceded Hey Reb! was a wolf in a Confederate soldier’s uniform named after Confederate general Gustave Toutant Beauregard. Then there’s Las Vegas’s fraught racial history, which at one point earned it the moniker “Mississippi of the West.”
The university’s study was conducted by Rainier Spencer, director of the school’s African-American Studies program, who went into the project expecting to discover a “racist past that we have to apologize for,” according to the Los Angeles Times.What he found instead was a peculiar local history and a bunch of dumbass college students playing dress up.
According to Spencer’s report, UNLV students started calling themselves the Rebels not because of any affinity for the Confederacy, but because they were angry at local politicians who were stymieing the their (sic) attempts to become independent from the University of Nevada, Reno.”
So the mascot doesn’t really have anything to do with the Confederacy. Nevada wasn’t technically even a state at the beginning of the Civil War and was admitted to the Union in 1864 as a free state. Seems like the students who conceived the rebel mascot just dressed him up in confederate stuff, as Ley writes:
“And what about that Confederate symbolism? According to Spencer’s report, it was adopted by the campus not in an effort to express solidarity with the Dixie South, but as a thoughtless adornment to the school’s already established rebel identity. In other words, dumb UNLV students, having been fed a sanitized version of Civil War history, just thought Confederate stuff was kind of badass.
All of the school’s Confederate imagery was done away with by the end of the 1960’s, and Hey Reb! was actually created as a corrective to the racist wolf mascot named Beauregard.”
Seems like the solution is simple enough here. Just explain the history of the mascot and tell people it doesn’t have anything to do with the Confederate south, slavery, or racism.
No reason for a new mascot, it would seem.
— Jonathan Cisowski (@cisow77) June 17, 2020