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Citing 'horrific historic racist imagery,' University of Florida bans 'gator bait' cheer

University president admits there is 'no evidence of racism' associated with cheer

Updated: June 19, 2020 - 8:47am

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The University of Florida on Thursday announced that it is banning its long-used "gator bait" cheer, with the school's president arguing that the phrase used in the gameday convention has a history of racist imagery associated with it. 

Fans at the Gainseville, Florida university often engage in the chant while clapping their hands and arms together in an exaggerated "chomping" motion. In a letter to the university on Thursday, President Kent Fuchs said the practice will come to an end. 

"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," Fuchs wrote. "Accordingly University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer."

Fuchs appeared to be referencing racist American tropes from the 18th and 19th centuries that portrayed young black children and babies as bait for Florida alligators. There is no evidence that black children were ever literally used as alligator bait, though unpleasant postcards and drawings of the time depicted such images. 

Whether the University of Florida's "gator bait" cheer arose from the earlier tropes, or independently of them, is unclear. 

In his letter Fuchs also stated that he is "personally committed to removing any monuments or namings that UF can control that celebrate the Confederacy or its leaders," echoing recent nationwide demands to tear down statutes honoring Confederate soldiers and generals.

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