Citing recent events, UNLV removes statue of school's Rebel mascot

UNLV removed its “Hey Reb!” statue from campus on Tuesday night with university president Marta Meana hinting that changes could be coming to the school’s “Rebels” mascot in the future. 

The statue, which stood in front of the Tam Alumni Center, will be returned to its donor, Meana said in a message to the UNLV community. In the message, Meana pointed to “recent events throughout our nation” as the impetus for the statue’s removal. 

“In recent conversations with the donor we mutually agreed it was best to remove the statue and return it. 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.”

Former UNLV mascot was wolf in Confederate uniform

The school’s Rebels nickname and mascot date back to the university’s origin in the mid-1950s, when the Las Vegas campus “was struggling to emerge from the shadow of the University of Nevada, Reno.”

According to the university website, UNLV students and administrators “drew the idea for Rebels from the natural rivalry that accompanied the split between what would become UNLV and UNR.” Once the Rebels nickname was established, students created Beauregard, a cartoon wolf mascot with a Confederate uniform “to ‘rebel’ against UNR and its wolf-pack mascot” in the northern part of the state. 

Beauregard was named after the Confederate general who ordered the first shots of the Civil War. The school’s website acknowledges that the choice of a Confederate uniform for the mascot was “an unfortunate one.”

“Beauregard’s smirk and wink contrasted with UNR’s ferocious wolf, another nod to the fledgling school’s break from tradition and its older and more established peer,” the website reads. “While it was a decision based in rivalry and fun, the choice of a Confederate-themed mascot was nonetheless an unfortunate one.”

The Beauregard mascot was officially removed in 1976 after a group of African-American student-athletes at UNLV “voiced objection to the Confederate imagery surrounding the mascot.”

In 1982, the Hey Reb! mascot concept was introduced by a local artist named Mike Miller. Miller said the inspiration for Hey Reb! came from “the Western trailblazers of the 1800s who ventured into uncharted Nevada to discover resources and build communities.”

UNLV introduced the "Hey Reb!" mascot in 1983 after previously using a wolf mascot that wore a Confederate uniform. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

However, amid the ongoing debate over Confederate imagery throughout the country and the social unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd, a petition was started calling for a new UNLV mascot. 

The petition, posted on change.org, had more than 4,100 signatures as of Wednesday morning. 

“UNLV's current mascot, the ‘Rebel’ is racist and is rooted in a Confederate mythology which has no place on our campus. The mascot, originally named ‘Beauregard’ after the Confederate general who fired the first shots of the Civil War, presents a public image that runs counter to our core values and UNLV's mission to become the leading multicultural university in the United States,” the petition says. “Having a mascot that is inextricably connected to a failed regime whose single aim was to preserve the institution of slavery is an embarrassment to our campus and to our community.”

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