The Ole Miss Esports team announced publicly earlier this month its intent to completely disassociate itself from the moniker 'Rebel,' the nickname associated with all Ole Miss Athletics teams.
It becomes the first team within the University of Mississippi to make such a decision.
"With all of the racial issues happening, disparities going on in our nation, and (Ole Miss) administration taking action addressing racial issues on our campus, be it taking down the confederate statue or otherwise, we really wanted to show our solidarity and take action," said Esports president Sergio Brack. "We thought the best way to start out was to separate ourselves from the Rebel moniker that obviously has been decisive for such a long time on this campus."
The decision to completely disassociate from the term 'Rebel' passed with a unanimous vote among the Esports executive council.
Now, to be completely honest, the Ole Miss Esports team hasn't been all that associated with the Rebel for a little while.
Its current decision is essentially to remove the use of the term Rebels in all social media posts, hashtags, team apparel and essentially all aspects of the organization. The team had already been using the Landshark as its primary logo.
Ole Miss itself retired the Colonel Reb sideline mascot in 2003, cycling through a handful of mascots from Rebel Black Bear to Tony the Landshark since. The term 'Rebel' dates all the way back to when the University Athletic Committee declared it the official nickname in 1936.
To the Esports team, the term 'Rebel' carries a sort of alienating connotation, especially among those in the African American community and other campus minorities.
"We felt like, as an inclusive team and organization on campus, we wanted to say something," Brack said. "We were seeing other organizations with as much diversity, if not more diversity, than we have stay silent on the issues. This is something that a lot of us are passionate about."
The Esports program at Ole Miss values that sort of inclusivity and diversity that decisions like this are intended to support.
Of the nearly 500 members of the organization, the Esports club consists of members of many different races, religions, sexuality and ethnicities. However, they could be better, Brack admits.
The varsity Esports team, Brack says, is predominately white (but consisting of a variety of different sexualities). Brack himself is the only African American on the executive council and one of just a few African Americans in the entire organization.
As expected, their decision has drawn quite a mixed response.
Brack says he was surprised and pleased by the number of positive messages the organization has received from people reaching out on social media or in person. Yet, he admits the overwhelming reaction has been incredibly negative—something they all anticipated when coming to this decision.
Regardless of the response and backlash, the Ole Miss Esports team is moving forward with its decision, and it seems like it's calling for others to take notice.
"None of our other athletics programs have had the gall to do it," Brack said. "We didn't want to live in fear, fear of backlash from people that have differences of opinion or just wanted to do something we thought was right."