In South Burlington, a plan to abandon the ‘Rebels’ nickname, adopted by the local high school in 1961, has triggered a tizzy; 40-member ‘School District Mascot Selection Oversight Committee.’
…The controversy heated up in 2015 when the Burlington Free Press newspaper dug up some old high-school yearbooks from the 1960s. They showed photos of cheerleaders and sports teams posing alongside Confederate flags. Until the early 1990s, the school’s mascot was, in fact, a Confederate colonel.
The “Confederate Rebel guy,” as principal Patrick Burke calls the mascot, has long been removed from the school’s gym floor, uniforms and official materials.
Yet in this largely white, upscale, liberal city of some 18,000 people, also known as the headquarters of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, the photos didn’t go down so well. In the November election, Donald Trump won 19% of the vote here; Hillary Clinton, 68%.
Monica Ostby, a 49-year-old parent of two South Burlington students, says she hadn’t been aware of that bit of school history. “I thought it was about Ethan Allen, ” she says, referring to the Revolutionary War figure who was a founder of Vermont. She says the Rebels nickname is too tainted to keep.
…“This will be short because I have to go home and let the dog out,” Mr. McDowell, an engineer in his 60s, told the board as the meeting neared 10 p.m.
In Mr. McDowell’s view, the Rebels name doesn’t need fixing, and it could just as easily refer to Muhammad Ali, Rosa Parks or himself, for that matter.