Keith Whitfield says losing nickname Rebels would be devastating

Even though Hey Reb! is gone, the nickname Rebels seems safe. 

Back in 2020, a statue of Hey Reb! was removed from campus. And earlier this year new UNLV President Keith Whitfield officially retired the mascot. However the nickname stayed. 

“But I really did listen to people, and I think that there was a difference between how people view that caricature and view the name rebel,” Whitfield told the Nevada Independent. 

Whitfield has publicly stated that UNLV embodies a rebellious spirit that carries no connection to the confederacy. 

“You know, we really want to be thoughtful about who we are as a university, and that we are “rebels,” we try to do things differently,” Whitfield said to the Nevada Independent. “We’re not afraid to try to invent and initiate and be entrepreneurial and go out that kind of — you know, I’ve been called a rebel all my life. And so I don’t have any problems with that.”

Even in emails Whitfield supports the name Rebels. 

Through a public records request, The Offensive obtained emails from the university relating to the removal Hey Reb and the decision to keep the nickname Rebels. 

When discussing a bill that could have forced universities in Nevada to remove offensive nicknames, Whitfield wrote: “Would be devastating if we have to drop Rebels. Hopefully, the drop of the character will suffice. This could get into a war of semantics.”

Publicly and privately, Whitfield is supportive of the nickname Rebels. So it would appear that the name is safe. At least for now. 

There was some other interesting information from these emails. First off, the cost to remove Hey Reb! from assets in the athletic department was $215,000. 

Also, back when the Hey Reb! statue was removed in June of 2020 by Marta Meana, Desiree Reed-Francois was preparing to find a replacement.

“If President Meana does decide that Hey Reb will be retired, would you please put together an inclusive, (fan and student voices critical) process to identify our next new mascot? Fan and student vote,” Reed-Francois emailed to members of her staff. 

Ultimately UNLV elected to go without a mascot. But if the school decides to introduce a new mascot with Reed-Francois still in charge, expect to have a fan and student vote. 

Leave a Reply