UNLV removes Hey Reb! statue; mascot’s future uncertain

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UNLV students outside the Richard Tam Alumni Center approach a small statue of Hey Reb! to rub its mustache for luck, Jan. 12, 2012.

Tue, Jun 16, 2020 (8:38 p.m.)

UNLV removed a statue of its controversial “Hey Reb!” mascot from a prominent spot on campus on Tuesday, with acting president Marta Meana citing “recent events throughout our nation” as the impetus for its removal.

The statue, which was located in front of the Tam Alumni Center, will be returned to its donors.

The removal was captured on video:

The convoluted history of the “Rebels” nickname has become an issue in recent years.

UNLV branded itself as the Rebels in the 1950s, with the stated intention of representing the school’s rebellion against Northern Nevada in general and UNR in particular. It took on a more political connotation in the late 1960s, as the school adopted a logo that featured a wolf character dressed in the grey uniform of a Confederate soldier. For the 1968 season, the UNLV football team played in helmets that featured the Confederate battle flag.

The school ditched the Confederate logos in 1976 but retained the Rebels nickname. In 1983, UNLV introduced the Hey Reb! mascot. Hey Reb! was intended to be a “mountain man” with a rebellious spirit.

Despite having adopted Confederate mascots for nearly a decade, in 2015 the university commissioned a report that found no connection between the Rebels name and the Confederacy.

Nationwide protests for racial equality have dominated the news in recent weeks, with sports figures, teams and organizations speaking out against systemic racism. Confederate iconography has been part of that dialogue. Last week, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from all its events.

In an email addressed to UNLV students, Meana said the removal of the Hey Reb! statue was permanent and that the mascot’s very existence is being reevaluated.

“Over the past few months, I have had discussions with multiple individuals and stakeholder groups from campus and the community on how best the university can move forward given recent events throughout our nation,” Meana said. “That includes the future of our mascot. The frequency of those conversations has increased in recent weeks, and I will have more to share with campus once the listening tour is complete.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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