Florida Gators to discontinue ‘Gator Bait’ cheer despite no evidence of direct racial ties

By Adam Silverstein
June 18, 2020
Florida Gators to discontinue ‘Gator Bait’ cheer despite no evidence of direct racial ties

Image Credit: GatorTurfStaff / Twitter

The Florida Gators on Thursday announced that the athletic program will no longer use the “Gator Bait” cheer at sporting events because of historic racist imagery associated with the phrase. University of Florida president Kent Fuchs announced this measure as part of numerous steps the school is taking to create positive change against racism.

“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,” said Fuchs in a statement. “Accordingly University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer.”

Though there are no direct racial ties to the creation or usage of Florida’s “Gator Bait” chant, there is significant historical context in which black children were depicted and possibly even used as bait to lure alligators around the turn of the 20th century.

Former First Team All-SEC safety Lawrence Wright takes credit for coining “Gator Bait” phrase and chant in 1995 — in the way the Florida athletic program used it. He also led a “Gator Bait” chant following the program’s 1996 national championship victory. Wright won a national championship and four SEC titles with the Gators; he is now in the UF Athletic Hall of Fame.

There is nothing in Fuchs’ statement outlining the future usage of the famous Gator Chomp gesture, though one would assume it will likely continue in some form and perhaps be utilized more with the “Jaws” theme that is often played at Gators sporting events.

UF is far from the only school to make changes to its campus or athletic programs as the issues of racism and police brutality are identified across the country. This comes as states and cities are tearing down monuments or statues honoring the Confederacy.

UNLV recently removed its “Hey Reb!” statue, Virginia adjusted its logos, Texas is being pressured to no longer use “The Eyes of Texas” as its alma mater, and Clemson and South Carolina are among schools who are considering changing names of their buildings and facilities.

Fuchs detailed a number of other steps UF is taking to combat racism on and off campus. Click here to read his entire statement.

Editor’s note: For greater context as to why Florida chose to discontinue the “Gator Bait” chant please read the three items linked in the above story.


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