- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2013

DENVER — Not every controversial mascot is an American Indian. Just ask anyone at the University of Denver.

University officials reignited the school’s simmering mascot feud last month by proposing three new mascots — an elk, a jackalope and a “mountaineer” — but many alumni are still smarting over the school’s decision to dump Boone, the chubby pioneer who was jettisoned in 1998 for being insufficiently inclusive.

At the Facebook page “I Support Denver Boone for Mascot of DU,” alumni have taken aim at the three proposed figures, pointing out that none of them is technically a Pioneer, the school’s nickname, and calling on the university to bring back Boone.

“DU, this is shameful to the school, that the mascot issue can’t be settled. Really, just admit your mistake and bring back Boone,” said alumna Mary Maybee in a Saturday comment on the Facebook page.

Such entreaties aside, the university appears determined to get beyond Boone. The Mascot Steering Committee unveiled the three alternatives June 27 after 45 focus groups and 15 open forums, sending out requests for comments to 75,000 alumni, students and others in the DU community.

Boone was never an option. DU Chancellor Robert Coombe said in a March statement that Boone would not be presented as a choice in the mascot search because he “did not reflect the growing diversity of the DU community.”

As alumni have pointed out, however, the “mountaineer” figure also appears to be a white male, albeit one in much better shape than Boone, who was drawn by Walt Disney Studios and looks like one of the seven dwarves.

The crucial difference is that Boone, who wears a coonskin cap, is a pioneer in the tradition of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, and such pioneers were known to have killed Indians, said DU spokeswoman Kim DeVigil.

“In 2013, let’s have a mascot everyone agrees on,” Ms. DeVigil said. “It’s not pitting one mascot against another.”

Unlike other universities, which were ordered by the NCAA to replace their American Indian mascots or face sanctions, DU’s decision to remove its mascot originated on campus after complaints that Boone was offensive to Native Americans.

By attempting to replace a pioneer with a mascot that doesn’t actually look like a pioneer, however, alumni say the university is indulging in stereotypes that besmirch the history and reputation of Western settlers.

“The University is making a statement that ‘western pioneers’ were bad people, unworthy of being a school mascot,” said alumnus Jason Starr in a June 24 post. “MY ancestors were western pioneers, some who were actually famous for being advocates of the rights of Native Americans. How is it not offensive to me to have the school MY school play up a negative racial stereotype against MY forefathers?”

The debate recently reached the influential sports pages of The Denver Post, where columnist Mark Kiszla praised Boone for serving “bravely, selflessly and adorably as the school mascot from 1968-98, until [he] was suspended for being politically incorrect.”

“Um, Boone is a cartoon character,” said Mr. Kiszla in a Friday column. “When does a DU sociology professor start a petition against the Roadrunner for cruelty to coyotes?”

The university has tried to replace Boone before, without success. A red-tailed hawk named Ruckus fizzled due to lack of support from students and was dropped in 2008. “Ruckus didn’t really catch on,” conceded Ms. DeVigil.

The university is accepting comments on the mascot alternatives until mid-July, after which the Board of Trustees will make a final decision on whether to adopt one of the figures.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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