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George Washington University’s sports teams will no longer be known as the Colonials.
The school said in an announcement Wednesday the school’s board of trustees and a special committee determined the name Colonials “can no longer serve its purpose as a name that unifies.”
The school said the process to change the name began in 2019, adding the special committee “found that the Colonials moniker does not adequately match the values of GW and can no longer serve its purpose as a name that unifies the community.”
Additionally, the committee said when the nickname was adopted in 1926, those who chose it lacked “thoughtful university-wide consideration.”
The committee outlined why those who favored the nickname supported it, saying it was a term for those who lived in the American colonies before the U.S. became independent and for those who fought for independence. The committee said that for those who opposed it, “Colonials means colonizers who stole land and resources from Indigenous groups, killed or exiled Native peoples and introduced slavery into the colonies.”
The committee said George Washington “firmly rejected” the term colonial, and the term itself “was not used during the 1607-1776 Colonial era, and it did not become popular until the Colonial Revival period of the late 19th and 20th centuries.”
“The board recognizes the significance of changing the university’s moniker, and we made this decision only after a thoughtful and deliberate process that followed the renaming framework and special committee recommendation that considered the varying perspectives of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and athletics community,” board Chair Grace Speights said in a statement.
“A moniker must unify our community, draw people together and serve as a source of pride. We look forward to the next steps in an inclusive process to identify a moniker that fulfills this aspiration.”
President Mark S. Wrighton said the school must “continue to lead with our values, strengths and the diversity” of the community.
“I was impressed by the principled and collaborative approach of the special committee, and it was clear this process was driven by research and robust engagement with the community. While some may disagree with the outcome, this process has determined that changing the moniker is the right decision for our university.”
The moniker came under fire in 2019 after a student-led petition surfaced calling for the nickname to be changed. The nickname Colonials is “extremely offensive by not only students of the university, but the nation and world at large,” the petition said.
A new nickname will be unveiled before the start of the 2023-24 academic school year.
Over the last few years, pro sports teams and colleges have been under pressure to change their nicknames over objections.
The Washington Redskins changed to the Washington Football Team and then to the Washington Commanders. The Cleveland Indians changed to the Cleveland Guardians.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers altered Herbie Husker to separate itself from an alleged White supremacy link. PETA called on baseball to change the name of the bullpen to “arm barn.” Quidditch leagues sought to change the name of their sport to break from “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling. And even the Texas Rangers were called on to change their name.