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UNLV, Virginia Rethink Symbols Amid BLM Momentum

Paul Steinbach

What's in a brand? Perhaps more than meets the eye.

The University of Virginia announced this week that it was updating the school's primary and secondary logos, getting rid of the curve on the handles of the logo that represented the serpentine walls on campus grounds. 

"After the release of our new logos on April 24th, I was made aware of the negative connotation between the serpentine walls and slavery," athletic director Carla Williams said in a statement Monday, as reported by NBC Sports. "I was not previously aware of the historical perspective indicating the original eight-foot-high walls were constructed to mask the institution of slavery and enslaved laborers from public view."

The sabres on both logos have been changed to remove the curves on the handles, which represented the serpentine walls. The walls were originally used to hide enslaved laborers on campus during the 19th century.

"There was no intent to cause harm, but we did, and for that I apologize to those who bear the pain of slavery in our history," Williams said. "As such, we have redesigned the logos to remove that detail. All other aspects of the logos will remain the same."

The school said they have started the process of updating their logos on all platforms.

Additionally, the Virginia athletic department is allowing fans who purchased gear between April 24-June 14 to contact the athletic department for an exchange.

"Over the last few weeks, I have worked to better educate myself and that education will continue," Williams said

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas is doing some soul-searching amid the current momentum of the Black Lives Mater movement, as well. 

ESPN reports that UNLV on Tuesday removed the Hey Reb! statue that stood in front of a campus alumni center with the intention of returning it to its donor.

"In our recent conversations with the donor, we mutually agreed it was best to remove the statue and return it," Meana wrote. "Over the past few months, I have had discussions with multiple individuals and stakeholder groups from campus and the community on how best the university can move forward given recent events throughout our nation. That includes the future of our mascot."

The Rebels' mascot dates to the school's origin in the mid-1950s, when it was an extension campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.

"[S]tudents and administrators drew the idea for Rebels from the natural rivalry that accompanied the split between what would become UNLV and UNR," the UNLV website says, as reported by ESPN.

Students created Beauregard, a cartoon wolf with a Confederate uniform, to "rebel against Nevada-Reno and its wolf-pack mascot in the North." On its website, UNLV acknowledged, "While it was a decision based in rivalry and fun, the choice of a Confederate-themed mascot was nonetheless an unfortunate one."

A Change.org petition demanding that UNLV change its Rebels mascot had more than 4,100 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

"The 'Rebel' is racist and is rooted in a Confederate mythology which has no place on our campus," the petition says. "The mascot, originally named 'Beauregard' after the Confederate general who fired the first shots of the Civil War, presents a public image that runs counter to our core values and UNLV's mission to become the leading multicultural university in the United States. Having a mascot that is inextricably connected to a failed regime whose single aim was to preserve the institution of slavery is an embarrassment to our campus and to our community."

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