Florida bans ‘Gator Bait’ cheer because of historical racist imagery

Florida Gators. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Florida Gators. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

Florida football fans are no longer allowed to do the ‘Gator Bait’ cheer.

The days of the ‘Gator Bait’ cheer among Florida fans is coming to an end.

Florida football fans will not be allowed to do this cheer anymore due to the historical racist imagery associated with it. University of Florida president Kent Fuchs announced his decision to pull this popular football cheer on Thursday.

“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. “Accordingly, University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer.”

While the chomping arm motion and Florida fans shouting, “Gator Bait!” seems harmless on the surface, there is a much deeper and much more sinister association with the phrase than most people even realize.

“Alligator Bait” is a pejorative term for black people. According to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University, black babies were used as alligator bait in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Once you have that horrifying image in your mind, you can’t really think of anything else. No wonder President Fuchs says the iconic cheer had to go as soon as possible.

‘Gator Bait’ is no longer a permissible cheer at Florida football games.

Naturally, many Florida football fans will be livid that their most noteworthy cheer is falling to the wayside. While imitating a gator chomping, in this situation, the opposition, doesn’t seem overtly racist, the phrase ‘Gator Bait’ seems to have been normalized to a degree that we don’t even attach it to slavery or the Jim Crow South. Other programs are doing other things to end racism.

The University of Virginia will no longer use the serpentine handles as a part of the iconic V-sabre logo. While the serpentine walls are very much part of the UVA campus, these walls were originally constructed in this manner to obscure the fact that slavery was existing on just the other side of those bricks in Charlottesville. Again, it was something that hadn’t even crossed our minds.

Surely, there will be other major universities like Florida and Virginia that opt to remove parts of their athletic culture that inadvertently celebrated racism. Florida’s rival Georgia will no longer play “Tara’s Theme” from Gone With the Wind at football games. The Redcoats will play “Georgia on my Mind” instead, which is the state’s official song.

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