Carthage withdraws names of its sports teams over racial and gender concerns

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Carthage College announced on Wednesday, September 9 that it had withdrawn the names of its existing sports teams – the Red Men and Lady Reds – and would start looking for a replacement.

Acting on a recommendation from President John Swallow, the college board voted to remove the two names. The changes are now in effect.

“(We) want to be inclusive and not single out Native Americans. And we want to be gender inclusive as well,” Swallow said. “It’s a real unifying moment, and we started to feel it last year, which is why we started the task for the time.”

Swallow made his recommendation based on the findings of a broadly representative working group on team names and mascot. Citing widespread concerns about connotations of racial and gender equity, the group concluded that the red men and red ladies were “not unifying symbols for our community.”

Athletics of the College of Carthage

Nearly 3,000 Carthage stakeholders shared their comments in a poll, and dozens more detailed their views via email and an online form. By a “significant margin”, respondents expressed their desire to adopt a new team identity.

Carthage sports teams had identified themselves as Red Men (or Redmen) since the early 1900s at the previous campus in Carthage, Illinois.

The nickname originally reflected the color scheme of the Carthage team’s uniforms. This also served to differentiate the college from the local high schools which wore blue and were referred to as the “Blue Boys.” A former conference rival – Illinois College – is still the Blue Boys.

Athletics of the College of Carthage

Athletics of the College of Carthage

Over the years, and since the move from Carthage to Wisconsin in the 1960s, the program has incorporated Native American imagery – including a previous mascot and a feather that remained part of the athletic logo until 2005.

Meanwhile, the program removed the space in “Red Men” shortening the name to one word – a racist term for Native Americans – until 2005, when the NCAA stepped in.

“Personally, I think it’s offensive, just because of the connotations,” said Mitchell Strehler, a freshman at Carthage College.

The board also voted in favor of the retirement of Torchie, the mascot of Carthage since 1997. Symbolizing the flame of knowledge, the character is not directly related to outgoing nicknames, but college voters have voiced a equally strong support for change.

A member of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, Carthage participates in 27 NCAA Division III sports. Student-athletes represent almost a third of undergraduate registrations.

In 2020-21, Carthage athletics will run without nicknames. Although the fall teams continue to train, the CCIW competition has been suspended due to public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the next few months, the college will be collecting feedback from a wide range of stakeholders. Executives expect the board to make a final decision in time to present the new name and mascot for the 2021-22 academic year.


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