The University of Florida has used the "Gator Bait" cheer during football games and other sporting events to fire up the home crowd. When the band played the tune, the fans would make a chomping motion with their arms and shout, "Gator Bait!" Now University President Kent Fuchs has confirmed that UF will not use the chant as part of the ongoing pursuit to remove any racist imagery from campus.
"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. Accordingly, University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer," Fuchs said in a statement. He later added, "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. This process will not be easy, and we will need to work together through the imperfections, missteps and complications that always accompany change."
According to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University, the term "alligator bait" became a racist slur for African Americans. Additionally, many African American children were used as alligator bait during the late 1800s and into the 20th century. The museum cited multiple newspaper articles, including one that explained how African American children served as bait to lead Florida alligators to their death.
In addition to removing the chant from UF sporting events, Fuchs expressed his commitment to eliminating any monuments or names associated with the Confederacy and its leaders. A presidential task force will review and recommend "values, principles and reasons for establishing and maintaining honorary namings, both historic and current." This task force will also identify individuals associated with the university for consideration as potential honorees.
Lawrence Wright, a former UF player credited with creating the "Gator Bait" chant, spoke out about Fuch's decision. He famously said, "If you ain't a Gator, ya Gator bait, baby" after defeating rival Florida State during a 1995 game at The Swamp. Wright, who had plans of launching a line of merchandise featuring this phrase, said he was upset that there was no discussion about removing the chant and that he wants to sit down with Fuchs.
"I'm not going for it," Wright told the Gainesville Sun. "I created something for us. It's a college football thing. It's not a racist thing; it's about us, the Gator Nation. And I'm black. What about our history as the Gator Nation? We took a program from the top five to No. 1 in the country. I think I've done enough, put in the sweat and tears, to get to offer my opinion about something like this."