The University of Las Vegas is about to make a significant change to its sporting events. The school is retiring its Hey Reb! mascot that has Confederate imagery. UNLV is not creating a new mascot to serve as a replacement but will be keeping the Rebels nickname.
University president Keith Whitfield announced the move in a letter to the community. "Personally, I have always viewed the term 'Rebels' as a strong, nationally recognized brand synonymous with UNLV," he said. "I believe the word 'rebel' represents an attitude or spirit. It captures the essence of an iconic city that is unconventional and celebrates its independence, tenacity, and resiliency. Rebels have a purpose or motivation for a greater cause and are not afraid to take risks to make incredible things happen."
According to the UNLV website, a local artist named Mike Miller created Hey Reb! in 1982. The university says that the mascot was "a cartoonish figure modeled after the western trailblazers of the 1800s." The university updated the mascot three separate times after its creation in 1982 before ultimately retiring it in January 2021. The move follows a previous decision in June 2020 to remove a Hey Reb! statue amid Black Lives Matter protests.
UNLV is not the only program to retire a mascot with Confederate imagery. Ole Miss did something similar in 2003. The school had a mascot named Col. Reb, the "southern gentleman" mascot, who had ties to the Old South. Ole Miss wanted to distance itself from this era and replaced the mascot with Rebel the Bear in 2010. The university has since gone one step further from Co. Reb and switched to Tony Landshark in 2017.
In Texas, Hays High School also decided to retire the Rebel mascot known as "Colonel Jack" in August 2020. The mascot previously wore a gray uniform typical to the Confederacy during the Civil War and the school's band would play "Dixie." The school also had a Confederate flag that flew on campus and at stadiums and gyms during sporting events.
"The mere fact that the rebel mascot is indisputably divisive is enough to warrant its change," district officials said in a press release in July. "When a mascot mires the school in political controversy and pits students, families, and community members against each other, it is time to change." The Statesman reported that possible new mascots for Hays were the Patriots, Honey Badgers and Hyenas.