Tigers are known as fierce animals in the wild, and for Louisianians, the tiger is seen as a symbol of state and local pride as the mascot of Louisiana State University.
A recent petition calls that pride into question, however, as one alleged LSU student has stirred up some controversy by claiming that the LSU Tiger mascot is racist.
A few excerpts from the petition explain why:
Louisiana State University named their mascot the Tigers, and they named it during the height of Jim Crow South. This was a time when black men feared for their lives, and were treated as sub human. This symbol is the most prevalent confederate symbol in the United States.
These powerful white males choose the Tiger as a symbol to honor a confederate regiment called Louisiana’s Tigers. They were known for their propensity for violence on and off the battle field. They were just as violent to the black slaves they owned, and later even more violent once those slaves were set free.
It is incredibly insulting for any African American to have to attend to a school that honors confederate militantism. It is already hard enough to be black at LSU, and these symbols must be changed.
It’s also cruel to cage a wild animal for the amusement of privileged white people. They’ve never been in a cage!
The overarching theme of the petition is that the Tigers’ nickname harkens back to the Civil War days, and it is therefore racist.
A quote from LSU’s official website, which is attributed to their first head coach Charles H. Coates, Jr., explains the “Tigers” moniker:
It was the custom at that time, for some occult reason, to call football teams by the names of vicious animals; the Yale Bulldogs and the Princeton Tigers, for example. This is still the vogue. It struck me that purple and gold looked Tigerish enough and I suggested that we choose “Louisiana Tigers,” all in conference with the boys. The Louisiana Tigers had represented the state in Civil War and had been known for their hard fighting. This name was applied collectively to the New Orleans Zouaves, the Donaldsonville Cannoniers, and to a number of other Louisiana companies sent to Virginia, who seemed to have the faculty of getting into the hardest part of the fighting and staying there, most of them permanently. One company I knew of went in 200 strong; only 28 returned and many of these were wounded.
Though the Fighting Tigers may have roots that extend back into the south’s not-so-savory past, so does nearly every structure or entity that was around at that time in the south. While the Fighting Tigers may have been men, the university, as well as the people of Louisiana have created over 100 years of history that has replaced that connotation with the lovable, fluffy Mike the Tiger that we know today.
Unlike other mascots such as the North Dakota Fighting Sioux and Ole Miss’ Colonel Reb (both of which have been officially changed), the image of Mike the Tiger has no physical resemblance to its racial past, so many fans may not even know its origin story.
Still, battle lines can be drawn nearly anywhere in the modern south, and both sides would have a case.