The How and Why Behind Capital University’s Mascot Change Efforts
Since the protests of summer 2020 and a purported racial reckoning that eventually reached the sports world, conversations around insensitive mascots have gone much further than they had in previous years.
Cleveland’s baseball team and Washington’s football team have begun the process of changing their names, and in Central Ohio, Olentangy Local Schools has begun unveiling districtwide rebranding that moves away from Native American imagery while still keeping their team names.
But before any of that, students at Capital University in Columbus were calling for their school to shed their controversial mascot, the Crusader.
Generally, the crusader moniker has been seen as potentially offensive for the advocates calling on institutions to move away from the mascot, as it is evocative of a controversial period in Christian history.
The issue with the crusader mascot does not come up nearly as often as insensitive Native American imagery, and only a select few institutions have decided to move away from the mascot, including Valparaiso University in Indiana, which announced a move from the moniker and mascot earlier this year.
In both symbolism and rhetoric, it has been utilized in right-wing extremism and terrorism because of its connection to violence against Muslims and immigrants. This includes its use in a Ku Klux Klan published newspaper called The Crusader and by individuals, groups, and organizations who often share anti-Muslim views using crusader images and symbols.
That history is why last spring, Capital students began circulating a petition calling into questioning how the mascot represented the school and its values, and calling on the administration to find a mascot that is more inclusive to different cultures within the institution.
In response, Capital reached out to the select institutions that have retired the mascot for insight. It also brought together committees, made up of students, student-athletes, staff, alumni, and faculty of a variety of degree programs, to both look into what the mascot represents and whether or not to retire the mascot, as well as what should come after.
The first committee decided to retire the mascot, and JP Spagnolo, Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management and Marketing at Capital, said the decision wasn’t taken lightly.
“They wanted to make sure that we had something that brought us together instead of pulling people apart,” said Spagnolo. “And long-term, we believe that making the right decision here will help us to be supportive and rally around a symbolic image, together.”
Nominations for the new mascot closed at the top of March, and now another committee will consider all of the proposed mascots, evaluated based on set criteria from the university.
“Some of the criteria are things like, does this submission conflict with our mission and values…is it inclusive, is there competitive spirit, is it logo friendly, things like that,” said Jennifer Patterson, Vice President for Advancement and Chief Development Officer at Capital.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that we’re getting lots of sources of input from the whole community [and] that the process has a very fair approach to it,” Spagnolo said. “We do believe that we can do a process that is very open, and very much a way that we allow for people to express their thoughts and feelings through the process, as well as coming up with a future, sustainable mascot for the long term of the institution.”
After that, the committee will pick finalists, with a final decision voted on by Capital faculty, students, staff, and alumni sometime this spring.
Capital intends to announce the new mascot and a new logo this fall.
For more information, visit capital.edu.