The Marist College athletic department changed the name of its mascot from ‘Shooter’ to ‘Frankie’ because of ongoing gun violence in the country and the stigma attached to the term ‘shooter.’ Wochit
If you’ve been to a basketball or football game at Marist College over the past four decades, you’ve seen him.
He’s the one in the faux fur, wearing over-sized sneakers and a big smile, handing out high-fives to fans and dancing through timeouts.
He’s the Red Fox everyone knows, though you may not know his name, anymore.
Amid a growing epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings across the country, the Marist athletics department decided to rename its mascot from “Shooter” to “Frankie.”
The change, made quietly last month, comes in a year that has seen more than 210 fatalities caused by mass shootings, according to USA TODAY data, and at a time of growing awareness nationally of the significance of the names and figures depicted on buildings and monuments.
“Frankie” officially debuted as the name on the back of the mascot’s jersey this past weekend during the Marist women’s and men’s basketball teams’ opening games on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Fans’ opinions on the renaming have covered a wide spectrum, ranging from acceptance and apathy to disagreement.
“We had a couple people who have commented,” Marist Director of Athletics Tim Murray said, “but many of them frankly have been positive. They understand. They get it.”
Murray first understood the connotation of the name on the morning of Oct. 2, hours after a gunman opened fire on the crowd at a Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas, killing 58 and wounding more than 500. On the news that morning, with the name of the gunman not yet revealed, Murray said he kept hearing the assailant referred to simply as “the shooter.”
And though Marist’s “Shooter” was named in reference to shooting hoops, the name took on new meaning for Murray.
“Unfortunately, in our culture today, there is a negative stigma to that term ‘shooter.’ And I just didn’t think it was appropriate for us at this time to perpetuate that term,” Murray said.
According to USA TODAY’S compilation of FBI data, 77 percent of mass killings — an incident that claims four or more victims — involve a gun.
The Marist staff brainstormed new names in the first week in October. Ultimately, it was an assistant athletics director, Andy Alongi, who came up with the name “Frankie,” given the college’s proximity to Hyde Park, the birthplace of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Murray said he did not want to draw attention to the name change, and the school has not yet made a formal announcement. The Marist athletics website’s mascot page was not updated with the new name until Tuesday.
Although the recent rash of shootings have cast added light on the issue, Murray admitted it isn’t a new issue.
“We had a couple people mention something to us over the years, but it really didn’t rise to the level now, where every other week you’re hearing about another unfortunate tragedy,” Murray said. “I think it kind of hit me personally and I said ‘It’s time.’”
Fans and students in attendance at Saturday’s men’s basketball game expressed mixed opinions about the change.
Eric Bjorkman, a Marist fan and Poughkeepsie resident, said the change made sense, even though he didn’t find the name “Shooter” offensive. Bjorkman said his kids — 6-year-old Benjamin and 4-year-old Olivia — are fond of the mascot regardless of his name.
“My kids love him,” Bjorkman said. “I don’t know if they even know the name changed. I get it, because of guns, but it’s basketball. Now that you bring it up, I guess it’s just one of those things.”
Austin Phillips, a Marist sophomore, likewise said the change made sense.
“I think in the times now, you kind of have to do it,” he said. “I thought ‘Shooter’ was fine, but with everything going on now, it’s something they had to do.”
However, Marist senior Charlie Jerla said it was an oversensitive move that ignored the reasons why the mascot was named “Shooter” originally.
“Shooter the Fox was named Shooter the Fox years prior to shootings,” Jerla said. “It’s a mascot, and he has nothing to do with shootings. So I really don’t see why they would change it. But everybody is so sensitive these days.”
Marist’s mascot has long been a part of the school’s athletics program, though its appearance has evolved over the years, with the most recent change coming in 2007.
A high school sophomore named Jim Norman first introduced the idea of a mascot to Marist in 1979, and he was picked to play the Red Fox for its first six years, according to the Marist website.
The mascot is a staple at basketball and football games, and travels to the biggest events, such as Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament games and NCAA tournament appearances.
“Our mascot is supposed to be fun, exciting and so on,” Murray said. “And if our mascot creates any issues with any person, it’s not worth having that nickname.”
A.J. Martelli: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4836, Twitter: @AJM_PoJoSports