The Army football team will be coming up with a new team motto after it was brought to administrators’ attention that its current motto originated with white supremacist gangs.
Over the past several years, the Black Knights have taken the field carrying a flag that has a skull and crossbones on it. The letter GFBD are written on the skull, which is an acronym for “God Forgives, Brother Don’t.”
The acronym is being removed from the flag, as well as all team merchandise where it appears. West Point officials said they had no idea that the phrase was linked to motorcycle gangs and Aryan Brotherhood sects.
After learning of the phrase’s origins, head football coach Jeff Monken said he was horrified and immediately met with his team to notify them that the phrase was completely removed from the program.
"It's embarrassing, quite frankly," sLt. Gen. Darryl Williams, the superintendent of the United States Military Academy, told ESPN. "... We take stuff like this very, very seriously. Once I found out about this goofiness, I asked one of our most senior colonels to investigate."
A two-month investigation by the military found that the motto as used without knowledge of its origin and had nothing to do "with the views or beliefs of white supremacist groups or any other disreputable organizations with which they might also be associated," according to an executive summary of the investigation's final report.
Investigators found that the skull-and-crossbones imagery first used by Armt football and appeared on t-shirts in 1990 before it was put on the team flag. The GFBD acronym was added in the 1996.
An upperclassman on the team told ESPN in August that the flag had come to represent the team's mentality in everything they do.
"That's become our symbol," he said. "I don't know if you can see it, but it says 'GFBD' over the teeth: God Forgives, Brothers Don't. That's just something we always say, and that's become part of us."
ESPN also reported that when its reporters asked the Army about the skull and crossbones imagery back in August, multiple spokespeople in the athletic department discouraged any mention of the GFBD phrase. One spokesman told ESPN he would "sincerely appreciate leaving that out of the story because it is an internal thing." Another athletic department official said in September that he had not heard Monken or any of the team members use the GFBD phrase before.