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Mascot name change in the works

By Kelly Mayo; Dustin Porter
Managing Editor; Around the Campus Editor

October 18, 2012

Photo by Hillary Akers
Mascot Tommy Hawk will go by a new name in the coming months to negate the stereotype.

Tommy Hawk was introduced as the official mascot of the Braves in 1999, but after 13 years UNCP has decided to part ways with Tommy.
According to a press release "the university feels it is time for a new name. The old name is inappropriate because of our sensitivity to the local American Indian community and the school's heritage."

"As a scholar of American Indian history, I support changing the name of the mascot from Tommy Hawk to something that is a positive and accurate reflection of the American Indian history of this area," Dr. Rose Stremlau, associate professor of history, said.

She added the name Tommy Hawk refers to tomahawk, which is an ancient adaption of an Algonquian word for weapon.

UNCP's athletic nickname has been the Braves since 1946, but the red-tailed hawk mascot has been around since 1992.

Tommy Hawk's appearance has changed three times since his official naming in 1999.

The latest costume arrived this year, and the name change came up during an Integrated Marketing Committee meeting.

Lawrence Locklear, the web publisher for UNCP, said the old costume for the mascot was damaged in a flood, and the new costume was redesigned, which sparked the reason for changing the name to go along with the new design.

"The negative implications of 'tommy hawk' have been discussed for quite some time in the American Indian community," Locklear said.

Locklear added the talks were heated when students began doing "tomahawk chops" at football games.

A tomahawk chop is an action where one extends his or her arm and "chops" the air. This gesture was made famous by the Florida State Seminoles.

Locklear said these gestures stopped after the Native American Student Associate requested them to be discontinued because of "offensive stereotypical connotations."

People can submit suggested name changes at until Oct. 22.

"Students are submitting names now, lots of them," Locklear said.

The new name will be announced during Homecoming Week.

"Students will have representation on the committee that selects the final three names that will be submitted to the Chancellor's Cabinet, which will make the final selection," Locklear said.

Dr. Stremlau encourages students to remember the importance of the Native American history of UNCP when making recommendations.

"Our student athletes are not genocidal weapons. I would love to see a name that accurately celebrates the Native history of this region," Dr. Stremlau said.

American Indian Studies Chair Mary Ann Jacobs said her department supports the name change.

"We understand that this is not an effort to undermine, erase or belittle the Indian heritage of UNCP or its relationship to the tribes in our state," she said.

"A lot of Native [American]s I know are upset about the change. They think it's the University's way of getting away from its Native American heritage," said senior Ashley Timmerck.

A Facebook page entitled "Save Tommy Hawk!" had 85 "likes" as of Oct. 16. Several UNCP students, alumni and organizations' Facebook pages changed their profile photo and banner to a photo of Tommy Hawk in protest of the change.

"As a whole, Tommy Hawk is a symbol of UNCP's tradition and pride. From the mascot to the statue in front of the UC, Tommy Hawk is with the campus every day watching over us. UNCP is different from almost any other college or university because of its unique relationship with the community and the Lumbee Indian tribe. Keeping Tommy Hawk as our mascot shows the depth of tradition that is embedded within students, alumni and the community. If Tommy doesn't stay, it will be a bitter irony that we throw away tradition and pride in the same year UNCP is celebrating its 125th anniversary," said alumus Nick Phillips.

-Editor Allyson Betot also contributed to this story.

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Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
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