Granted, ESPN’s deselection of an Asian-American sportscaster to cover a football game at the University of Virginia because his name is Robert Lee is a contender in the race to identify the dumbest objection to a name on campus, but it probably merits no more than a fifth or, at best, fourth-place showing.
There have been far greater absurdities. One of the all-time greats was the insistence that a building at Lebanon Valley College named Lynch Hall be changed because the name conjured up images public executions of black men by white mobs. (As a fascinating aside, the move to rename the building came at a time when the U.S. attorney general was named Lynch, but students at Lebanon Valley were somehow unfazed by that.)
On to the latest. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Black Student Assembly at the University of Southern California is demanding that the team mascot of the USC Trojans be renamed. At a recent rally, Saphia Jackson, co-director of the USC Black Student Assembly, reminded students that “white supremacy hits close to home.”
The current mascot is a white horse named Traveler. Before games, he is ridden around the field by a costumed Trojan warrior who waves a sword.
So what exactly is the problem? If you guessed it was Traveler’s color, guess again. That would be a little too on the money to deserve any special distinction. It’s also not the fact the rider symbolizes war, which is anathema to any peace-loving liberal.
The flashpoint, rather, is Traveler’s name. It turns out that a famous general rode a steed that was named “Traveller,” except spelled with two Ls. His name was Robert E. Lee.
Interestingly, five short years ago, Kevin Corke, then with CBS Sports, did a segment on the “traditions that tie the bond the universities from coast to coast.” The piece focused on one especially colorful symbol of the pageantry that brings students together. It was, of course, Traveler.