WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — On a recent trip to a William and Mary men’s home basketball game, Kevin Barnes, ’97, again reacted with a mixture of ambivalence, apathy, and disappointment towards W&M’s mascot the Griffin.
“Watching a William and Mary basketball game is already disheartening enough,” Kevin Barnes said, as the Griffin high fived students. “This just adds to the malaise,” he continued, pushing his glasses farther up his nose.
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W&M changed its mascot to the Griffin, a mythical creature comprised of a bald eagle’s head and a lion’s body, in 2010, a few years after the NCAA ruled its traditional logo with feathers could be offensive to Native Americans. Originally known as the Indians, the College phased out this moniker and started to exclusively use its nickname “Tribe” in the 1980s.
“I just don’t understand what it has to do with William and Mary. I guess it’s kind of weird and not intimidating, which is like us,” Kevin Barnes said .
Confusion reigns among many alumni unsure how to make sense of the College’s numerous logos and mascots in recent decades. “Is it a tribe of griffins?” Barnes’ wife Peggy Barnes, ‘98, who accompanied him to the game asked. “Or is it just the one Griffin who belongs to a non-Native American tribe? And what happened to that frog thing?” she pondered as her husband avoided the scoreboard and stared into his bowl of popcorn.
Kevin Barnes has tried to embrace the mascot, printing it on corn hole tables and testing out the nickname “G-Daddy” at tailgates and alumni events, but so far nothing has worked.
“And what is he always pointing at?” Mr. Barnes groaned of the Griffin’s signature pose: one hand outstretched towards the heavens. “Maybe he’s trying to say, ‘Hey! Look up there, up in the sky. It’s our chances of making it to the NCAAs — way out of reach,’” Peggy Barnes guessed.
The Barneses did admit one positive of the Griffin: wearing a logo of the winged creature instead of a featherless “W&M” in public has substantially cut down on the number of times they are mistaken for highly enthusiastic Waste Management Inc. employees. “I guess it’s a little bit of a catch-22,” former English major Kevin Barnes lamented as the couple walked past his old fraternity house before the drive back to Richmond, “but things were just simpler back then, before the Griffin swooped in.”
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