Apr 5, 2011, 2:06 PM EDT
Here’s the first known action photo of Rebel Black Bear, the University of Mississippi’s controversial new mascot, who took the place of the venerable Col. Reb following a student vote last year. Here’s the ursine mascot hob-nobbing with kids at the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson, MS, earlier today. It’s probably no accident that the new mascot made its debut at a children’s hospital: consider these comments over at the Clarion Ledger, which ran the photo:
hmmm…the head is just big enough to be an easy target for a whiskey bottle this fall. — musiccityreb
Sad sad day. Will never support this thing that has been forced upon a fan base and school. — OleMissRebels
VOMIT…. — ambrose6
Not all the comments were negative, by the way; some liked the new mascot. But one can’t deny the controversy here; when one mixes politics and college fan loyalty, the results can be toxic. Col. Reb was ousted in 2003 when the university decided he was too representative of negative Southern stereotypes. The school went without a costumed mascot until last year, when a vote of the student body produced Rebel Black Bear.
Many Ole Miss fans claim, however, that the vote was rigged, and/or did not fairly represent the student body. There is a (doomed) movement afoot to bring back Col. Reb, and another popular choice, Admiral Akbar from Return of the Jedi, was nixed after an attack by attorneys from Lucasfilm.
Photos of the new costume leaked last month, but today was the debut of the Rebel Black Bear with someone actually inside the costume.
From the Ole Miss athletic site:
Rebel’s tour will continue Wednesday at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis for the organization’s “Sports Day.” He will be joined by other mascots from the region, including the Memphis Redbirds’ Rockey the Redbird.
“Emotionally connecting with children and positively impacting our communities are top priorities for Rebel,” said Michael Thompson, Ole Miss senior associate athletics director for communications and marketing. “I can’t think of a more important place to introduce him than at these awe-inspiring facilities that touch the lives of so many.”
As opposed to introducing him at an Ole Miss football game, where his oversized head can be touched by various thrown objects.
Yep. Never before has a bear been so controversial. The person inside the costume will have to be a very brave soul. Or a bomb disposal robot.
Rebel (the black bear) has arrived, and here’s the photo to prove it [Clarion Ledger]
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