INDIANAPOLIS — A Catholic high school in Indianapolis is dropping its “Rebels” nickname, citing the “negative connotations” tied to the name that’s often associated with the Confederacy.
Roncalli High School’s interim president, the Rev. Robert Robeson, said in a video released Wednesday on social media that a task force would be convened to choose a new nickname and mascot.
While his video did not elaborate on the “negative connotations” the school wants to distance itself from, the name change comes at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S.
Roncalli, which has used the “rebel” mascot and nickname since its creation in 1969, was named for Pope John XXIII, whose family name was Roncalli. According to the school’s website, the nickname was in homage to John XXIII, who was “referred to by some in the church as a rebel.”
But Confederate imagery was eventually connected to the Roncalli Rebels, including a mascot named “Ronnie Rebel,” dressed in a Confederate military uniform, The Indianapolis Star reported.
A 1984 school yearbook has a cartoon of a Confederate general embossed on its cover. Another from 1987 has the same cartoon general holding two Confederate battle flags on the cover.
Ruth McClelland-Nugent, a 1990 graduate from the school of Indianapolis’ south side, said her yearbooks are full of Confederate imagery. Whether it started that way or not, she said, the image had been co-opted by the 1980s.
“We were the ‘rebels on the south side,’” she said, reciting a school slogan. “What were people supposed to think?”
The Confederate general character and flag were both banned sometime in the 1990s, according to the school’s website.