After decades of controversy, Valparaiso University is retiring its Crusader mascot. In a video statement on Facebook, officials at the Indiana university noted that Crusader imagery "can be associated with aggressive religious oppression and violence," some of it a lot more recent than the religious wars of the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, the New York Times reports. "Unfortunately, the Crusader and its symbols related to the Crusades have been embraced and displayed by hate groups," said Colette Irwin-Knott, the university’s interim president. "In fact, a newspaper of the KKK carries the name the Crusader, and this is not something we want to be connected with Valparaiso University in any way."
The university's teams have been called Crusaders since 1942, when the name Uhlans was dropped because of its association with German cavalry units. Irwin-Knott said the university will now seek a new mascot that is in "alignment with our beliefs and speaks to the core values of the Lutheran ethos rather than being a symbol of division." The move led to some fierce arguments on social media, though officials say the school started drawing away from Crusader branding years ago, the Times of Northwest Indiana reports. Student Jenna Rifai tells the Valpo Torch that as a Muslim, crowds cheering the mascot made her uncomfortable. "It’s like, in their minds do they accept me? Are they anti-Muslim?" she says. "I know it seems like a small little image but that image holds power. Symbols hold power.'" (Read more Valparaiso Crusaders stories.)