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Staff Opinion: Taking guns from Wilbur out of line

By Wildcat Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday August 29, 2002

Football team mascots are a grassroots expression of home spirit and should not be used as a rhetorical tool to manipulate students' political beliefs and historical memory. But when the athletic department conceded last year to redraw UA's own rootin'-tootin' Wilbur the Wildcat with a weapons-free gun belt, they did more than just confiscate Wilbur's six-shooters they needlessly controlled the imaginations of students and Tucsonans alike.

The UA Identification Committee, a decision-making group that oversees official trademark policies, voted last year that Wilbur should be more consistent with UA's weapons-free zone policy and other versions of the mascot.

While committee members denied a political motivation, members agreed they changed Wilbur because they felt the cartoon cat popular with fans of all ages for over twenty years set a bad example for children.

The Wildcat completely supports the ban of firearms on campus, and though its staff holds a variety of views on national gun control considers the initiation of force with guns anywhere to be a horrific and pernicious crime.

We do not, however, view a historical cowboy Wilbur's chosen motif to be a criminal or delinquent student. A cartoon character Wilbur included is a make-believe object of an artist's imagination, which individuals may or may not choose to support in gift shops according to their own conscience.

To punish nonexistent human beings or cartoon characters for violating rules designed for living people is absurd and a disappointing display of condescension to students who paid good money to receive an objective education. It also is a "rip off" to the students and families children included who love football and the competitive values the sport promotes.

A good mascot says to opponents: "We are not to be trifled with. You want to challenge us? We are armed and ready. You want the glory of victory for your home town? Our town has got history, tradition and class that we won't let you take away and we're not afraid to say it."

But with an empty gun belt, our cowboy cat was stripped by a "well-meaning" group of his means of attack or defense. What can Wilbur do now? Bluff his opponents into forfeiting or embarrass them with pity for his misfortune?

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