Florida, Georgia End Football Traditions Deemed Racist

Brock Fritz Headshot

Colleges continue to remove antiquated traditions and symbols due to racist connotations.

A pair of SEC schools announced changes this week, with the University of Florida putting an end to its “Gator Bait” cheer and the University of Georgia marching band removing “Tara’s Theme” from its program.

CBS Sports reported that University of Florida president Kent Fuchs announced the discontinuation of the cheer on Thursday.

“While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our ‘Gator Bait’ cheer at UF sporting events, there is horrific history [of] racist imagery associated with the phrase,” Fuchs’ press release said, according to CBS Sports.

ABC News reported that the “Gator Bait” term dates back to racist imagery involving African-Americans being used as alligator bait.

The University of Florida has launched an anti-racism initiative in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. The ending of the “Gator Bait” cheer is among the steps the university is taking to become more inclusive.

“We know that we cannot undo lifetimes of injustice and racism, but we believe we can make progress — in education, in advancing truth, reconciliation and justice, and in anti-racism, equality and working to eradicate inequities,” Fuchs’ release said, according to CBS Sports.

Related content: UNLV, Virginia Rethink Symbols Amid BLM Momentum

University of Georgia Redcoat Marching Band director Brett Bawcum sent out a press release Wednesday, announcing that the band will no longer play “Tara’s Theme,” a song from the 1939 movie “Gone with the Wind.” The song will be replaced with “Georgia on My Mind.”

“Though the tradition has been under discussion for months within the band, the current social climate has highlighted the urgency of addressing it and made me conscious of the message that could be interpreted by delay,” Bawcum’s release read. “To be clear, the issue with the tradition is not the motivation of those who have embraced it, but rather the possibilities it may limit in those who haven’t. I value tradition, but I value creating a welcoming environment much more. I love the Redcoat Band. But it is incomplete. It’s past time we made it right.”

Georgia football coach Kirby Smart tweeted his support for discontinuing “Tara’s Theme” and creating an advisory board on campus.

“As both a UGA alum and head FB coach, I fully support the USG Board of Regents and Chancellor’s decision to form this committee to study these important issues,” Smart said. “This is an important first step in the right direction to help us evaluate our history and work to bring us closer together.”

Related content: Athletics Officials Call for Change Amid Unrest

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