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College's Aztec Warrior mascot getting toned down to 'Spirit Leader' after racially charged debate

While San Diego State University is keeping its longstanding "Aztecs" moniker, the college has decided to tone down its Aztec Warrior mascot to a more culturally appropriate figure: "Spirit Leader." (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

While San Diego State University is keeping its longstanding "Aztecs" moniker, the college has decided to tone down its Aztec Warrior mascot to a more culturally appropriate figure: "Spirit Leader."

“The Aztec Warrior … will be retained, but as Spirit Leader, not mascot,” interim SDSU President Sally Roush told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday.

“We just expect a much more dignified and appropriate demeanor from that person," Roush added to the paper. "You won’t see the Aztec Warrior doing pushups in the end zone. You won’t see the Aztec Warrior dancing with the cheerleaders.”

Image source: YouTube screenshot

The decision to dump the Aztec Warrior mascot reflects nearly 20 years of racially charged debate about how the school treats indigenous people, the Union-Tribune said.

More from the paper:

Roush heavily based her decision on a report produced by a 17-member task force of faculty, students, alumni and community leaders who explored whether the school’s use of Aztec is culturally insensitive, if not racist. Many critics have made those claims, including an SDSU lecturer who pointed out that the Aztecs never lived in the southwestern United States. They were from central Mexico.

Two task force members recused themselves while creating a report that says in one spot, “No human should be a mascot.”

The task force report led Roush to decide that the words Monty and Zuma will no longer be used in the name of certain awards that are granted by the university. Those nicknames represent the breaking apart of the word Montezuma, which Roush said is “very disrespectful of the emperor of the Aztec civilization.”

College's longstanding 'Aztecs' nickname is as popular as ever

The task force conducted a major survey that concluded that SDSU, its alumni and the public want to keep the longstanding nickname "Aztecs," which has been in use since 1925, the Union-Tribune reported.

“In the current political climate relative to the US/Mexico border, the elimination of the moniker may be read as discriminatory and an attempt to ‘erase’ our relationship to Mexico and other Latin Americans," the task force wrote, the paper said.

But the group also looked at counter-arguments, noting that dumping the Aztecs nickname makes sense "because of the current political climate that leans toward racial and ethnic discrimination," the Union-Tribune reported.

More from the paper:

The new report says that more than 200,000 survey forms were sent to alumni, faculty and staff, students and the community, asking whether Aztec should be used as a nickname and as the name of the school mascot. Nearly 13,000 people replied. Among them, nearly nine in 10 supported keeping the nickname and nearly 8 in 10 endorsed a human Aztec Warrior mascot.

'I’m Mexican, and I think it’s pretty dope that my mascot is an Aztec like me'

The Union-Tribune noted some of the responses:

  • “The name Aztec does not mock the ancient people, unlike the name Redskins which is considered a slur."
  • “I will not give the school any money if they change it.”
  • "Honestly, I’m Mexican, and I think it’s pretty dope that my mascot is an Aztec like me. Just don’t disrespect the Aztec culture by having like a white person be the Aztec mascot or something.”
  • “Get over this politically correct BS in California, there are more important issues ...”
  • “[The name] perpetuates a tired, played out, dehumanizing stereotype of indigenous people.”

Roush as interim president is on her way out in a few weeks. SDSU will welcome its permanent president Adela de la Torre in late June, the paper said, adding that de la Torre is a "social justice expert" and agrees with Roush’s decisions.

Here's a video report about the issue when it was heating up among SDSU students last year:

(H/T: The College Fix)

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