MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Students, parents and members of the community gathered at the Maryville High School football game calling for change.
Protesters want the Rebel nickname gone. This is not the first time this debate has circulated around the community. A petition to change the name caused some controversy back in June.
“We have a mascot that fought for the right to own rape, and kill people. And I just don’t know how we’re in 2020 and the larger community doesn’t see the issue with that,” Jeremy Leduke, a protester and Maryville High parent, said.
Protesters say the Rebel mascot stems from a history of the Civil War and the Confederate fight to uphold the institution of slavery. In recent years, the school has tried to distance itself from the negative symbols that some may associate with the name, like the Confederate flag. However, it has still made frequent appearances at school events, including Friday night’s game.
“Unfortunately as much as they would like to distance themselves from the history, I think it’s impossible to disassociate the rebels from the Confederacy so it kind of stands for that hate against a marginalized community regardless of how they want to put it. That’s just the history behind it,” said Savita Chapman, a protester.
Not everyone agrees that the name is hateful. Jonathan Hagan counter-protested and brought his Confederate flag.
“We understand here in the south that back years ago there was a lot of hatred here. There was a lot of racism that went on around the south. But I believe we as a society are better than that. And I believe it’s important to keep good traditions and to keep good heritage alive and to throw away the bad,” Hagan said.
The protesters are still fighting for a name change. Gathering more supporters using social media, testimonials from members of the community and speaking to school board leaders. They make it clear that even though they want a name change, it does not mean they don’t support the school and its students.
“I support our students, I support the teams and all the activities, but as adults in the community, we have to come together and do better. Our community can be better than this and there’s no reason for it not to be,” Jeremy Leduke said.
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