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UNLV retiring Hey Reb! mascot

Updated January 21, 2021 - 6:00 pm

UNLV is retiring the Hey Reb! mascot but retaining its Rebels nickname, university president E. Keith Whitfield announced Tuesday.

The Rebels do not plan to create a new mascot.

The school removed a statue of Hey Reb! in June amid national dialogue about potentially racist imagery after the police-related deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Whitfield’s predecessor, Marta Meana, announced at the time that the university would evaluate the future of Hey Reb!.

Whitfield wrote in an open letter to the university community that he “engaged in an extensive listening tour among faculty, staff, students and community members” about a variety of topics, including the nickname and mascot. Regarding Hey Reb!, Whitfield wrote that Meana “essentially addressed this issue late last spring when she had a statue of the mascot removed from the main campus.”

Added Whitfield: “For all intents and purposes, the Hey Reb! mascot has been retired since last spring, and there are no plans to bring it back.”

The president also explained why the school is retaining the Rebels nickname, noting that the word itself “represents an attitude or spirit.”

He added: “It captures the essence of an iconic city that is unconventional and celebrates its independence, tenacity and resiliency. Rebels have a purpose or motivation for a greater cause and are not afraid to take risks to make incredible things happen.”

UNLV introduced Hey Reb! in 1982. The mascot was created by former Las Vegas Review-Journal artist Mike Miller. He was inspired by the trailblazing mountaineers who explored Nevada in the 1800s. Its appearance was tweaked in 1997 and again in 2017 with the intent of highlighting a “stronger connection with the symbolism of Las Vegas,” per the university’s website.

The school previously had utilized Confederate imagery, beginning in 1968 with the introduction of its original mascot, Beauregard, a cartoon wolf outfitted in a Confederate uniform. The school abandoned Beauregard in 1976 after student-athletes objected to its use of the Confederacy. But different groups of protesters emerged during the past few decades, contending that Hey Reb! still channeled the Confederate spirit.

A 60-page analysis written in 2015 by former UNLV Chief Diversity Officer Rainier Spencer concluded that neither the name nor the mascot is tied to the Confederacy.

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