Action steps identified in Red Raider mascot removal process

  • The Red Raider was the mascot for Athol High School sports teams. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 11/24/2020 6:45:23 PM
Modified: 11/24/2020 6:45:20 PM

ATHOL — Athol High School Principal Dave King last week updated the Athol Royalston Regional School Committee on steps that have been proposed to retire the Red Raider name and logo associated with AHS athletic teams. The committee had voted to make the change at its previous meeting.

“I do have a set of four actions steps I want to talk about tonight,” said King. “A few of them will require some guidance from the School Committee on how to proceed. The first step is the process of the removal of the mascot and the moniker — the moniker being the name, ‘Red Raider.’”

King explained the first step would include the removal of the three large signs adorned with a cartoonish caricature of a Native American wielding a tomahawk and a spear, as well as removal of a graphic painted on the wall of the school’s gymnasium.

“There’s also a banner in the gym that clearly says ‘Home of the Red Raiders’ which can be easily taken down, along with another banner. Any other signs in the building say ‘Red Raiders’ or including the mascot, those will be taken down next week.

“The next layer of actionable items,” King continued, “would be the week of Nov. 30, and what we’re thinking is, in the front driveway there are a couple of signs that we could either paint over or purchase a sticker that goes over the mascot itself.”

King also pointed out that, in every classroom, there is a “Raider Pride” matrix poster. He said stickers reading “AHS” may be purchased and placed over the word “Raider” so that the posters read “AHS Pride” instead of “Raider Pride.”

The next significant step, said King, is the matter of the gym floor.

“I’ve met with the athletic director, Dan Bevis, numerous times. He’s met with local vendors who could help provide us guidance on how to best handle this situation.

“The center court mascot is a significant item there. It’s in within the center of the circle, and after looking at it feel we could belt sand that off — remove it — and just leave that plain for now.

“Additionally, at the baseline there is the ‘Red Raider’ wording and I feel could sand that as well.”

King said changes to the football field scoreboard and to banners hanging in the gym wouldn’t be made until a new mascot is chosen. He added the district will incur a significant expense when it comes to changes in athletic and band attire, but the cost and the process will be nailed down at a later date.

King then asked for guidance from the committee on a couple of items, one of which is a monument — a gift from the Class of 1988 — that stands at the entrance to the athletic complex.

“It does have a Red Raider logo on it,” he said. “It does have a mascot on it, and the words ‘Red Raider’ on it. So, I’m looking for some guidance from the School Committee on how to proceed with that.”

Committee Chair Lee Chauvette said a bill moving through the state Legislature provides some leeway for the preservation of a logo or moniker that exists on something that may be difficult or excessively expensive to alter, as long as there’s a good faith effort to make overall changes within the space of a year.

“I would not personally be in favor of changing something like the granite donation — the class gift. That was not paid for with taxpayers’ funds. Either removing or trying to re-do or reface the granite — I’m not sure that’s exactly in our wheelhouse, or my wheelhouse, anyway.”

In response to a question from committee member Mitch Grosky, King confirmed that the logo on the monument is a rough depiction of the same Native American caricature employed throughout the school.

“I understand the concern about it being a class gift,” said Grosky, “but my feeling would be a bit different if we had a noble, majestic looking Native American there; then I could say, ‘OK, it stays as part of our heritage. If that image does bear resemblance to the (current logo), then my feeling is that it wouldn’t be appropriate to continue it.”

Chauvette then asked King to reach out to other districts to see how they have handled similar issues.

In the meantime, King has put together an advisory committee to guide the mascot/logo changeover. He said he hopes to sign an agreement with the Hurd Group, a company the specializes in rebranding, to assist with the committee’s efforts. King noted the company has offered to provide its guidance at no cost to the school district, adding it is working on the same issue with two other districts in Massachusetts.

King said the committee will actively seek input from the community and from students, some of whom will form a subcommittee to participate in deliberations with the AHS mascot committee.

King said he hopes to have a final strategy on how to proceed nailed down by Nov. 30, after first meeting with Superintendent Darcy Fernandes. The plan will formally be presented to the committee on Dec. 16.

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