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Reid says he didn’t urge UNLV to rethink its mascot

UNLV vs. Fresno State: Jan. 25, 2014

Las Vegas Sun

Hey Reb and Khem Kong try to distract a Fresno State free-throw attempt during their game Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won 75-73 in overtime.

Updated Tuesday, June 23, 2015 | 5:45 p.m.

No, Sen. Harry Reid is not calling on UNLV to change the name of the Runnin’ Rebels or get rid of Hey Reb! because they could be construed as a reference to the Confederacy.

In a weekly press conference on Capitol Hill, Reid was asked by a reporter how he felt about the university’s name in light of the recent uproar over the continued use of the Confederate flag by some state governments.

Reid responded, “I believe that the Board of Regents should take that up and take a look at it.”

News outlets quickly ran with the story, asserting that Reid was calling on university and higher education leaders to change it.

But Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said the former Senate majority leader wasn't planning to talk about UNLV and wouldn't have said anything if he hadn't been asked.

In recent days, Reid has been one of a handful of politicians who have called for the removal of the Confederate flag from state houses. The calls were renewed after 21-year-old Dylann Roof killed nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C., an act believed to have been racially motivated.

Orthman wouldn't say whether Reid personally objected to the name or the university's mascot, Hey Reb!

“He said the Board of Regents should take that up and take a look at it and it is up to them,” Orthman said in an email. “We are just going to leave it at that.”

UNLV has responded to the story by reposting an article explaining the history of its mascot Hey Reb! The mascot used to be a wolf named Beauregard, who wore a Confederate battle uniform. The mascot, created by UNLV’s student government after the university was founded in 1955, was in reference to UNLV’s "rebellion" from being a satellite campus of the University of Nevada, Reno. Beauregard was canned in the 1970s after students objected to the racial undertones, and was replaced by Hey Reb! in 1982.

Regent Cedric Crear, an African-American who has been a regent since 2006, said he has received a number of calls in the past few days from constituents who felt the mascot needed to be scrutinized.

“The racial terrorism has really sparked up a lot of feelings within everyone, including myself,” Crear said. “I don’t think the dialogue about Hey Reb! is out of line. It’s probably a good time to have a conversation.”

"UNLV’s current mascot, Hey Reb!, was created in 1982 by late local artist Mike Miller and was inspired by western trailblazers of the 1800s," the university said in a statement. "It was intended to be reflective of western independence and spirit and has become one of the most beloved mascots in college athletics."

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