UNLV retires Hey Reb! mascot, with no plans for a replacement

UNLV Sports

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — UNLV has retired the Hey Reb! mascot, but the university will stick with the Rebels nickname.

In a series of tweets on the university’s account on Tuesday, the school said UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield confirmed the end of Hey Reb!

A statue of the mascot was removed from the UNLV campus last spring. The move prompted an outcry and an organized protest on a Facebook page, where Hey Reb! supporters said they had gathered 6,000 signatures to keep the mascot.

Little has been said since.

The mascot has long been criticized as a relic of the Civil War, with the controversy dating back to the 1970s when they had a Confederate-themed mascot. For 10 years, UNLV didn’t have one. Then, in 1983, Hey Reb was introduced.

Pressure to change the image has been persistent, resurfacing when other parts of the country dealt with racism themes. This year has seen changes to state flags and the removal of statues with connections to racism across the country.

The university said it was listening to input from “listening tours” in the fall.

“During a series of listening tours last fall, we heard numerous opinions on both the nickname and mascot. We appreciate the passion and interest expressed by members of the university community, including our alumni, fans, and supporters,” according to a tweet.

A statement from Whitfield’s office summarized his feelings about the mascot and the nickname.

Personally, I have always viewed the term “Rebels” as a strong, nationally recognized brand synonymous with UNLV. I believe the word “rebel” represents an attitude or spirit. 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.

Our community is regarded worldwide for a rebellious attitude that reflects nonconformity and even defiance at times. That includes the origin of gaming and the evolution of the hospitality industry and its cutting edge innovations. Our largest industry is the economic engine of the state and continues to reinvent itself to deliver a total visitor experience unmatched by any other city. It also has withstood economic downturns — it’s in the midst of one now because of the pandemic — yet each time has emerged stronger.

The same can be said for UNLV. We have pushed boundaries through our history and achieved success when critics said we would fail. In recent years, that has meant establishing the only dental school and law school in the state and launching a medical school that will graduate its inaugural class this May. And, of course, the most recent example was achieving the Carnegie R1 status or “very high” research ranking — the gold standard among higher education institutions — seven years ahead of schedule. These incredible achievements have sprung from audacious goals.

UNLV President Keith E. Whitfield

Earlier this summer, 8 Sports Now caught up with a former Rebel, who anticipated changes at UNLV, but says he’ll always be a rebel — a Runnin’ Rebel.

“A lot of changes have been happening. For them to change the logo, knocking down the Hey Reb Mascot, the changes have been almost something every year, so I’m getting used to it,” said Wink Adams, “but that the end of the day, UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, that’s what it is. Been like that since I’ve known it.”

The school will be the only school in the west without a mascot. It might be the only school or franchise in Las Vegas without a mascot, from elementary to high school to the pros.

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