Honey, Does This Mascot Make My School Look Offensive?

Because you can never have too many conversations about school mascots…..
The University of Denver joins the Summit League this year (Welcome!) and the school seems to be having an identity crisis.

A little bit of background here:

And here:

In essence, the higher-ups think the Pioneer name is fine, but think the Denver Boone mascot is non-inclusive and offensive.

Denver Boone

The school has not employed Denver Boone for years, but some students and alums would like to bring him back.
In the meantime, the school has proposed three replacements… a jackalope, a mountaineer and an elk.

Denver mascots

None of these has gained much support.


In recent years here in the Dakotas, we became aware of (and soon weary of) the controversy at the University of North Dakota.

But that fight had everything to do with a name and the right to use it and whether it was offensive to a real-life, living segment of the population.
The Denver discussion centers on a cartoon character.  A cartoon character made from an original drawing by Walt Disney, I’m told, but still a cartoon character.

There is another school in the country with the Pioneer nickname… Sacred Heart University in Connecticut.
This is their mascot.

Sacred Heart Pioneer

They have no plans to change it.

Bottom line is… you can make any name or mascot offensive if you try.  Consider these.

Akron Zips

Could be a derogatory term used by mobsters and is definitely a derogatory term used by Clint Eastwood in the movie Gran Torino. The name actually comes from Zippers, rubber overshoes popular in the 1920s… and the mascot is a female kangaroo named Zippy.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (pronounced Shon-tuh-clears)


From a story in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales… a proud, fierce rooster who ruled the barnyard… associated with South Carolina’s Gamecock which obviously comes from cock fighting which was once celebrated in America but is now illegal.


Furman Paladins

Basically a knight in shining armor… and you know those guys did some shady shizz for Charlemagne back in the 8th century. It is also a fantasy character in Dungeons and Dragons and do you really want that kind of association for your football team? Really? (Although it must be pretty cool when the knight on a white horse rides out on to the field before the game.)

Kansas Jayhawks

Either A) Civil War era soldiers fighting for the cause of emancipation or B) thieving, murderous scoundrels that preyed on innocents across the border in Missouri.
On the flip side………… UNLV/Ole Miss Rebels

New Orleans Privateers   Privateer
A pirate… although, a pirate under the direction and blessing of a government. They were persons or ships in the 16-1800s that plundered and pillaged against invading ships under a government flag. Basically, “legal piracy” that was prevalent in the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Louisiana Lafayette Ragin Cajuns

A few lines directly from the school website: A Ragin' Cajun is not a person or an animal, but a feeling that describes our unique way of life. It describes our hot and spicy food and unique music. For this, the students picked a pepper and named it Cayenne.

That’s right. Their mascot is a pepper. And its name is Cayenne.

Cayenne Pepper - Copy

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

The mascot is a leprechaun with his dukes up looking for a fight and nobody finds this offensive.

Valparaiso Crusaders
They were “noblemen” who carried out Holy Wars in the 11th-13th centuries who either A) reclaimed land and sites and artifacts in the name of the Pope and the church or B) waged a campaign of intolerance against those who did not bend to their beliefs

So the takeaway is this:   To be non-offensive to anyone ever (except animal rights activists, I guess) you should probably just go with whatever wildlife you might see in your state if you wandered outside the city limits once in a while.
Oregon has its Ducks and Beavers.
Washington has its Huskies and Cougars.
South Dakota has its Jackrabbits and Coyotes.

Colorado already has its Buffaloes and Rams.  Maybe Denver should just go with “Deer”.
Should be fun to see how it turns out.

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