Thornton Fractional South High School in Lansing has ordered some uniforms with its new mascot and hopes to Red Wolves displayed in the gym by August when students return.
“It will be a couple year process to replace all the uniforms, but the biggest thing we’re doing this summer is the gym floor,” said TF South Principal Jake Gourley. “We’re sanding that down and refinishing it so when the students come back in August, they’ll all see the new Red Wolves mascot prominently on the floor at the assembly we’re planning for the first day.”
The Red Wolves will replace the school’s former team name, the Rebels, which was retired in the summer of 2020 due to its negative link to the Civil War and the Confederacy, and following the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests over the shooting of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
“We had some negative comments accusing us of ‘cancel culture’ at the time when we decided to change it,” said Gourley, “but since we’ve unveiled the new name and design, I’ve only seen positive remarks and likes on social media.”
Gourley acknowledged that the Rebels name was retired for political reasons, saying former teacher and longtime school board member Richard Dust summed up the decision by saying “if not now, when?” in the midst of the summer of protests.
Once the decision was made, the school removed all the branding, including on uniforms, which were changed to just read TF South. A student committee was formed to discuss new name possibilities.
“This all happened while we were still remote, so it was a bit difficult to discuss changes,” Gourley said. “We reached out to the students who were the athletic team captains and club presidents and met with them remotely to recommend names.
“I think we met with them nine times and they came up with three possibilities, including the Red Wolves,” he said.
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After the committee narrowed the choices, an email was sent to students and staff to vote. But even though the Red Wolves prevailed in spring 2021, the board rejected the name selection, saying not enough people were involved in the decision-making process.
“So, we had to start again this year, and we had the students pick more representatives from each grade and the staff selected representatives for the committee, and we put together presentations for each of our options including color ideas and suggestions for expanded branding, like calling students of the month ‘pack leaders’ for the Red Wolves name,” Gourley said.
Gourley said the goal was to be inclusive and unique in the name selection. Name suggestions such as The Bulldogs, which is the team name of Richards High School in Oak Lawn, was rejected for being too common while The Stallions were rejected for inclusion purposes.
“Stallions are by definition male horses, so we didn’t think that would make sense for the girls’ teams,” he said. “Eventually, we came up with three options and held another vote and the Red Wolves won again by bout 900 votes.”
The school engaged TS Design Studio in Homewood to have the logo created based on the concept presentation the students compiled. Graphic Designer Trevell Southall, whom the district had previously worked with, created the Red Wolves design that will eventually find its way onto spirit wear and more of the school’s facilities, potentially including the main entrance windows before school begins Aug. 22.
“I’ve been really pleased with the process,” Gourley said. “I think it’s something the kids can be proud of and I think the new logo is sharp.”
Jessie Molloy is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.