The University of Florida has decided to discontinue the use of its ‘Gator Bait’ cheer and band performances at sporting events moving forward.
Florida President Kent Fuchs announced this week that while there is no direct evidence of racism with the school’s cheer, the term “gator bait” itself is associated with “horrific historic racist imagery.”
“While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our “Gator Bait” cheer at UF sporting events, there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase,” Fuchs said in an official statement. “Accordingly University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer.”
As Josh Allen so eloquently displayed at The Swamp in 2018, Florida fans typically yell “Gator Bait!” and use the chomping motion to mimic an alligator when the band plays a familiar song.
Josh Allen with the Gator Chomp after the win pic.twitter.com/MjIvTPouTR
— Tyler Thompson (@MrsTylerKSR) September 9, 2018
According to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University, African American children were previously used as alligator bait in the late 1800s and early 20th century, with various newspaper clippings, magazines, and books highlighting the past instances with sketches and graphics of the practice. They also explained that historically, “alligator bait” has long been used as a racial slur directed toward African Americans.
Back in 2017, Snopes – a popular fact-checking outlet – published an article documenting the long history of African American children being used to lure alligators out of the swamps to be killed so that their skins could be harvested.
While the school had a “Gator Bait” magazine dating back to 1980, former Florida safety Lawrence Wright is credited with creating the phrase, “If you ain’t a Gator, you’re Gator bait, baby,” after a win in 1995 over Florida State.
Since the news of the school dropping the cheer, Wright told The Gainesville Sun that he did not support Florida’s decision and wants to talk to Fuchs directly.
“I’m not going for it,” the former safety said. “I created something for us. It’s a college football thing. It’s not a racist thing, It’s about us, the Gator Nation. And I’m black. What about our history as the Gator Nation? We took a program from the top five to No. 1 in the country. I think I’ve done enough, put in the sweat and tears, to get to offer my opinion about something like this.”
Outside of the cheer, the school announced 15 total changes it would be making to address and condemn racism moving forward, including the removal of monuments and names that “celebrate the Confederacy or its leaders.”
“It is past time for UF to commit and engage in this challenging, uncomfortable, transformational work,” Fuchs said. “We know that we cannot undo lifetimes of injustice and racism, but we believe we can make progress — in education, in advancing truth, reconciliation and justice, and in anti-racism, equality and working to eradicate inequities.”