The University of Florida is banning its “Gator Bait” cheer at sporting events because of “historic racist imagery associated with the phrase,” school president Kent Fuchs announced Thursday.
As part of a university-wide review to help the school take steps against racism, Fuchs highlighted the cheer as an action that will be taken immediately.
“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.”
When the band plays the familiar tune it prompts fans to make the gator chomp motion with their arms and shout “Gator Bait!”
African American babies were used as alligator bait, according to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University, citing newspaper articles and imagery from the late 1800s and early 20th century. The term “alligator bait” was also used as a racial slur against African Americans.
According to ESPN: Lawrence Wright, who popularized the phrase, “If you ain’t a Gator, ya Gator bait, baby,” after saying it following a win over Florida State in 1995, told The Gainesville Sun he was upset with the decision to remove the cheer and wants to talk to Fuchs.
“I’m not going for it,” the former safety told the Sun. “I created something for us. It’s a college football thing. It’s not a racist thing, It’s about us, the Gator Nation. And I’m black. What about our history as the Gator Nation? We took a program from the top five to No. 1 in the country. I think I’ve done enough, put in the sweat and tears, to get to offer my opinion about something like this.”