Symbols of the Confederacy are finding new criticism in the aftermath of the shooting deaths of nine churchgoers June 17 in Charleston, South Carolina. Advocates for removal say the public placement of Confederate flags, and now statues of Confederate figures, could imply an official endorsement of the separatist movement based at least in part on the embrace of slavery.
Now, Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid is adding his voice to the list.
He said that University of Nevada, Las Vegas should change the “Runnin’ Rebels” nickname. He claims its based on a Confederate Civil War soldier.
Founded in 1957, UNLV positioned itself as the Southern counterpart of the more established University of Nevada, Reno and its Wolf Pack mascot. And while the first version of the mascot was a cartoon wolf dressed in a Confederate-styled uniform and named Beauregard, it was abolished in 1976 following complaints from Black athletes.
The current ‘Hey Reb’ mascot first appeared in 1983 and is designed to look like a mountain man who wears a gray hat with a scarlet band around it. The Mascots appearance was changed in 1997 to the square-jawed, mustachioed mascot seen today.
Reid also said the Senate would be examining dozens of statues that line the halls of the U.S. Capitol, because eight are historical Confederate figures including Jefferson Davis, who was elected president of the Confederate States of America. Reid said he would add the bronze figure of Pat McCarran, who served as Nevada senator from 1932 to 1954, to that list of questionable statues.
“Pat McCarran was one of the most anti-Semitic — some of you might know my wife’s Jewish — one of the most anti-black, one of the most prejudiced people who has ever served in the Senate,” Reid said of McCarran in 2012.
Federal law allows each state to place two statues in the Capitol. Nevada’s second statue is of Sarah Winnemucca, a 19th century Paiute educator and lecturer.
In December 2013, Reid attacked Washington Redskins football team stating it’s “a racist name.”
And while we debate this, Reid is pushing expanded background checks for gun sales, saying: “The United States is the only advanced country where this type of mass violence occurs. Let’s do something. We can expand, for example, background checks…We should support not giving guns to people who are mentally ill and felons.”