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University of Florida bans ‘Gator bait’ cheer because of ‘horrific historic racist imagery’

Florida fans cheer the Gators during a game against Missouri on Nov. 3, 2018, in Gainesville, Fla.
(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Associated Press)

Most, if not all, of the thousands of University of Florida fans who yell the words “Gator bait” at home games likely are unaware of the unspeakable history tied to that phrase.

But that history does exist, and the university’s administration never wants to hear that phrase at a Gators game again.

“While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our ‘Gator Bait’ cheer at UF sporting events, there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase,” university President Kent Fuchs said in a statement Thursday. “Accordingly, University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer.”

According to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Michigan’s Ferris State University, white hunters sometimes used live Black infants to lure alligators during slavery and the Jim Crow era.

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At Florida, the cheer was used to taunt the Gators’ opponents, with the band deliberately pausing during a song for fans to shout the words and move their arms in a chomping motion.

A logo for UVA athletics that was unveiled featured a nod to the campus’ serpentine walls, which are connected to the university’s history with slavery.

The move to ban the phrase was one of several steps announced by Fuchs as part of the university’s larger effort to address racism and inequity in the age of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“It is past time for UF to commit and engage in this challenging, uncomfortable, transformational work,” Fuchs said. “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.”


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