HOWELL – What’s in name? Well sometimes quite a lot…which is why Freehold Regional High School officials have decided to change the long-time mascot, Rebel, to the letter “H.”
That decision has left a few people scratching their heads and others applauding as it is believed that the name change is in response to the current Black Lives Matters protests in support of George Floyd and is an action to be more racially sensitive.
The change of name and subsequent removal of a monument donated by the class of 2006 was prompted by a petition signed by more than 1,250 people. It was promoted by both current and former students who are requesting that the team name of “Rebels” be discontinued.
A statement provided by the Freehold Regional High School District by Communications and District Projects Coordinator Rebecca Policastro regarding the mascot stated the issue “has been occurring over the last several years. Our community members have recently expressed concerns over the former image of Howell High School’s mascot.”
The statement adds, “throughout the last several years, the District has taken action to remove the former image of this mascot. For instance, the image has been removed from new uniforms and was not included when Howell High School’s turf field and basketball court were updated.”
“Rather, the Howell “H” has appeared and been consistently utilized to symbolize the school. We are continuing to take the necessary steps to remove any remaining public depictions of that former image,” the statement added.
The District also stated, “Howell High School’s team names will remain the Rebels, however, we will be working with our student body to hear their thoughts and design a new image for the school’s mascot.”
Policastro explained the monument at Howell High School that was removed and called for “rebel pride” and featured the image of the rebel soldier mascot had been taken down to be refinished.
“It will go back out once the work is complete. There is now a link on Howell High School’s website for students and alumni to submit their designs for the new Rebel mascot,” Policastro said noting that the mascot has been around for over 20 years.
The petition calls for the removal of all remnants of the former mascot, on the basis that both symbolize the Confederacy and the slavery its soldiers fought to continue.
“Rebel” the mascot was a cartoonish image of a Confederate soldier with a floppy cavalry hat with an extended mustache. This image has mostly been phased out in recent years, according to the Freehold Regional School District.
The district stated it would continue to take all necessary steps to remove any remaining public images of the former mascot. Petitioners want the Rebels name also removed.
The new name has not gone unnoticed to those on social media groups like the Howell Happenings NJ Group page.
The name change was noted as a hot topic of a conversation thread. Some have posted that if the Rebel is considered potentially racist that the Manalapan Braves should also be removed as many people from Howell go over to Manalapan for programs and other activities.
A few people pondered if any indigenous and native people might be offended when sports teams such as the Washington Redskins use native logos and mascots.
In one post hypothetical names such as the Crown Loyalists so named after a British Red Coat as a mascot and the Taliban Bomber would be seen as something that would be preposterous in comparison to more current names that are offensive to one ethnic group or another.
The subject featured over 150 comments on that Facebook page as of June 10. One person posted that Viking mascots should be considered offensive due to slavery history that involve them.
It was also noted that comments on the subject were important as it involved discussion of racist symbolism in white suburbs and that Howell is 86.9% white per information from the last census taken. As of July 1, 2019 the township had 51,952 people an increase of a population estimate taken on April 1, 2010 that listed the population as 51,088.
The name Patriots was also thought to possibly be offensive by one person who posted to the page saying patriots had conquered all of North America and also pointed out the Manasquan Warriors but some of the posts were not as serious and were also suggesting that political correctness regarding name changes may have gone a bit far.
“Remove everything deemed offensive. Wipe it all out, if you care you are labeled racist. If you don’t care, you are labeled racist and uncaring,” one woman posted to the page adding that Native Americans had a bigger piece of the pie when it came to being the victims of racism with whole Native nations “being wiped off the face of the planet.”
Some didn’t want history removed and that includes statues or old flags. “People should do some damn research rather than watch the news and get info from snowflake Facebook,” a post stated.
Howell Superintendent of Schools Joseph Isola said the name change pertains to the Freehold Regional High School District and reminded residents that Howell High School is not part of the Howell Pre-K -8 school district and the township’s school district had nothing to do with the mascot’s name change.