(Photo: Twitter/Maranatha Athletics)
A Christian college in Wisconsin has changed its "Crusaders" school mascot after nearly half-a-century in order to adapt to changing times.
Matt Davis, executive vice president of Maranatha Baptist University located in Watertown, says that the university chose to change its nickname because it has become a more "global society." The school also changed its name from Maranatha Baptist College in December, and Davis says the latest change is in compliance with the school's makeover process.
Davis was clear in telling Fox News that the university has received no complaints about its "Crusaders" nickname, which was adopted during the Division III college's founding in 1968.
"But I also agree that times change and we understand that context changes," Davis told Fox News. "Our world has changed since 9/11 and we've become a more global society with the Internet. The heartbeat behind this was not political correctness, but expanded opportunities for our students."
Davis went on to say that the university is now in the process of selecting a new nickname that will be released in spring 2014. The school's athletic uniforms and online publication The Maranatha Crusader will also be changed to reflect the school's new mascot once it is announced.
Dictionary.com defines a "crusade" as "any of the military expeditions undertaken by European Christians in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims." As the Daily Mail reports, although this term may be heroic to some, to others it is reminiscent of bloodshed and invasion.
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Daily Mail that his advocacy group welcomes the "crusader" change but also focuses more on school mascots that incorporate ethnicity or race as a bigger issue. "Our main concern has been with stereotypical and racist team mascots or school nicknames," Hooper told the media outlet, adding that he "welcomes the spirit of change."
When Maranatha Baptist University changed its name in December 2013, it released a statement saying the change was part of a three year strategy on behalf of the school to make their mission and message clear.
"When we step back and take a comprehensive look at all that Maranatha offers, we see a university," said University President Dr. Marty Marriott in a statement. "We believe Maranatha Baptist University simply reflects what Maranatha is and has been for many years."
"Maranatha will always be Baptist, dispensational, and evangelistic," Marriott confirmed. "We will hold fast to our separatist position and continue to emphasize local church involvement. These tenets are part of our heritage and for us, are non-negotiable."
The university describes itself as a provider of "Christ-centered, biblically based liberal arts education in an environment marked by intellectual rigor and inquiry" which "emphasizes the local church and personal outreach, providing each student with a platform to fulfill God's plan for his or her life."
In the past, some advocacy groups have taken issue with school mascots that represent ethnicity or some other possibly offensive subject. Coachella Valley High School in California came under fire in November 2013 for its "Arab" mascot and nickname, with advocacy groups arguing the mascot perpetuated stereotypes of Middle Easterners in an aggressive, offensive way. Ultimately, the school said in a statement that it would be keeping its "Arab" moniker but also be looking into changing their mascot's appearance, as well as some accompanying Middle Eastern traditions such as a belly dancer at football half-time shows, to appease those who find their representative to be offensive.
Over the past several years, especially in 2013, the Washington Redskins NFL team has also received criticism for its mascot that represents a Native American. Last year, President Barack Obama, several members of Congress and sports commentator Bob Costas called on the team to change its nickname. The team has yet to change its name, and Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, said at his annual Super Bowl press conference on Friday that nine out of ten Native Americans like the team's mascot and he believes the moniker is "presented in a way that honors Native Americans."