As a Nevada resident for almost 70 years, I have seen the state grow from an agricultural and mining economy to a thriving sports and entertainment destination for people from all over the world. At that time, as a political science graduate student at UNR, our studies included Nevada Constitution, Nevada History and Nevada School Law. Our state has a fascinating history and has developed a culture unlike any other state in the union. Traveling throughout the state, I found many towns with interesting and symbolic names including their school mascots. None of these names were based on racial prejudice.
My first contact with a school mascot in Nevada was as a teacher at Reno High School. We were proud of our mascot, the Huskies, named after Sharon (Callahan) Cox’s dog “Togar.” Upon relocating in Las Vegas a few years later, my second mascot, the Rams, was at Rancho High School. A few years later Valley High School opened with the mascot “Vikings.” In no way was the connotation of the name a reflection on the history of the Vikings who assaulted Western Christendom, vandalized central and southern Europe and denigrated ancient cultures. When Chaparral opened in 1973, our mascot became the “Cowboys.” Again, not used as a derogatory term to demean those who are cowhands in the state.
My next position was at UNLV where we were forced to remove the term “Rebels” because some thought it reflected on the Civil War and racism. On the contrary, the name was chosen because Las Vegas was in Southern Nevada, and at that time the only university in the state was in the North. So much for preserving history!
The tradition in Nevada in naming mascots is to have a symbol for students to take pride in their school. Elko High School chose “Indians,” Incline High School “Highlanders,” Fernley High School “Vaqueros,” and Gorman chose the “Gaels.” All of our mascots were chosen by members of the community, and none were named to portray racist overtones.
Consequently, Assemblyman Howard Watts’ AB88, a bill proposed in the Legislature, is nothing more than an attempt to change the precious history and tradition of our local school mascots. Mr. Watts is wasting serious time and money by proposing a bill concerning mascots when we have many more important and serious problems to resolve in Nevada. His viewpoint, taken to the extreme, borders on fanaticism.
If we stretch this ridiculous joke of the bill to its fullest extent, there would not be any names for mascots. Watts should leave history alone, remove his bill from the docket, and use his time for what he was elected to do — not changing the names of school mascots, but serving his constituents by improving the economic growth and security of our Battle Born State.
Robert Locatelli spent more than 50 years as an educator in Nevada. He has experience in teaching, administration, personnel, curriculum development, counseling, public relations, television, journalism, and investigative research. Over the years, he served as the Social Science Department coordinator at CCSD; the Nevada representative in Washington, D.C. for Law Related Education; the director of Field Experiences, Department of Education, UNLV; the assistant director for the Las Vegas campus of Sierra Nevada College, among other positions.