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A Kent County school considers ditching Confederate mascot

Eric Mockerman

A West Michigan school district is considering changing its mascot name to distance itself from Confederate imagery.

The Godfrey Lee Public School District recognizes that the “Lee Rebels” is a name that carries some baggage; it is an homage to the Confederacy.

Eric Mockerman, the Godfrey Lee school board president, says the school board has had public input meetings to discuss the potential change from the Lee Rebels mascot.

“Just trying to get input and see where people stand, and have people understand why we’re considering what we’re doing and why it’s important to have the discussion,” Mockerman says.

The board reached out to other schools in West Michigan and out of state who have recently changed their mascot names. Mockerman says those schools gave some good insight into the issues that may arise.

“No matter what we decide, not everyone is going to be happy. Some alums are upset we’ve kept the name this long, while others think we should never change it,” he said.

Mockerman says if the boards votes to change the name, it will allow students to pick the next mascot.

“To help identify who they want to be, who we’re going to be going into the future,” he said.

Other schools have changed their mascot names from Confederate and Native American mascots in recent years.

In Paw Paw, which is near Kalamazoo, the high school’s “Redskins” mascot caused controversy, but the name and logo remained.

Mockerman says any change would come after the next community input meeting, which will be held on January 17.

The board still needs to look at things like the cost of new jerseys, repainting the gym floors and changing turf on the football field.

“Those are things we’ve at least talked about, but there definitely needs to be more discussion before we even know how much it would cost,” Mockerman said.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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