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Hey Reb! Statue Removed Amid Push To Change 'Rebel' Nickname

Associated Press

One week ago, UNLV officials removed the Hey Reb! statue from campus, and the future of the 40-year-old mascot is in doubt.

Interim UNLV President Marta Meana said the statue was being returned to the donor and also indicated further changes could be coming to the Rebel mascot in the wake of social justice protests around the country. 

An online petition to change the name has garnered nearly 4,500 signatures. And it’s not the first time the question of whether or not to change the mascot has come up. 

In 2015, then-Chief Diversity Officer Rainier Spencer, produced a report on the origins of the nickname and mascot. It found that the mustachioed mascot, created in the early 1980s, pays homage to the path-finding mountain men who explored the West, not Confederate soldiers.

“People have put onto this mascot the idea that he’s a Confederate,” Spencer told State of Nevada,  “but he was designed expressly not to be a Confederate.”

One proposal to end the controversy is changing the nickname to Sharks, in honor of legendary basketball coach Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian, who led UNLV to the NCAA championship in 1990.

Tarkanian’s son, Danny, said his late father would be fine with whatever was best for the university, but it would be a deserving honor.

“For his family, for his grandkids, I think it would be a wonderful tribute to him,” Danny Tarkanian said.

 

Rainier Spencer, former chief diversity officer, UNLV; Patrick Caleb Smith, professor, Jones College;  Ray Brewer, managing editor, Las Vegas Sun; Danny Tarkanian, son of UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian; Ryan Boone, president, Native American Student Association, UNLV 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.