According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium and Florida’s Stephen C. O’Connell Center have become the subjects of petitions seeking to change their names because of their namesakes’ segregationist beliefs.
The recent push comes as part of a renewed movement against racial injustice in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. College athletics has become a hotbed for the continued conversation, in part because many prominent student-athletes are Black.
Former Florida State linebacker Kendrick Scott started a petition calling for the removal of Campbell’s name from the school’s football stadium because of his views.
“...in reflection his non-inclusive views of Blacks as an segregationist is divisive, therefore his name should be removed from a stadium that has been home to many Black football players helping to build the school and the tradition to what it has become today: a national treasure,” Scott’s petition reads in part.
Meanwhile, Florida graduate student Anthony Rojas has begun a petition of his own seeking to remove O’Connell’s name not just from the basketball arena, but seven other facilities on the Gainesville campus.
“In 1959, [O’Connell] was a member of the majority on the Florida Supreme Court when it denied entrance to a Black man seeking admission to UF on the grounds that the applicant was ‘a potential disruptive influence,’ ” Rojas wrote in his petition, adding “In 1971, UF President O’Connell arrested and threatened to expel 66 Black students who organized a sit-in at Tigert Hall as an expression of discontent with university policies that did not encourage Black student enrollment or the employment of Black faculty members. The students were later denied amnesty for their actions and the event is remembered in UF history as ‘Black Thursday.’ ”
Meanwhile, colleges and athletic departments around the country have already made changes — such as dropping particular band songs, fan cheers or hand gestures — that were considered by some to be racist or have racist origins. For instance, Florida announced that it would stop the “Gator Bait” cheer due to its roots back to the use of Black children as alligator bait.
The petitions have drawn thousands of signatures so far.