Florida will ban its 'Gator Bait' cheer due to the phrase's racist history

The University of Florida is no longer allowing the "Gator Bait" cheer at sporting events. By Allen Kim, CNN

(CNN) -- The University of Florida's "Gator Bait" cheer is coming to an end at sporting events over the racist imagery associated with the phrase.

University president Kent Fuchs made the announcement on Thursday as part of a list of steps the university is taking to combat 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," Fuchs said. "Accordingly, University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer."

The university's sports teams are nicknamed the Gators. The cheer is usually heard when the university band plays a familiar song and fans respond by making a chomping motion with their arms while shouting, "Gator Bait!"

Ferris State University's Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia has found newspaper articles and imagery from as far back as the late 1800's of African American babies being used as alligator bait.

Fuchs said that "the 2020-21 academic year will focus on the Black experience, racism and inequity." He said that the faculty will also "reevaluate and revise appropriate elements of our curriculum."

The university will require all current and new students, faculty and staff to undergo training on racism, inclusion and bias.

"It is past time for UF to commit and engage in this challenging, uncomfortable, transformational work," Fuchs said in his statement. "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."

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