Fairfax High School has dropped its sports team nickname, Rebel Pride, and changed its mascot to the Lions, the school's principal announced in a letter to the school community Thursday.
The move is one of many by states and localities to remove images and vestiges of the Confederacy following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer last month and protests seeking racial equality.
"At Fairfax, we pride ourselves on inclusivity, family, belongingness, respect, and integrity, and given the history of Rebel, it is time for a change," principal Erin Lenart wrote.
The school opened in February 1935, according to a history on the Fairfax County Public Schools website, and its original mascot was Johnny Reb, depicting the image of a Confederate soldier, Lenart wrote. Beginning in 1985, the mascot was changed first to Rebel Rouser and then Rebel Pride.
"Each iteration maintained some element of Rebel, and the most recent iteration, Rebel Pride, is a phrase frequently used in tribute to the Confederacy," Lenart wrote. "Though I believe the intention of our students who participated in the rebranding to Rebel Pride was not to glorify the Confederacy, I also understand that we do not have the luxury of rebranding in contradiction to what a long and well-established history already defines it to mean—and Rebel Pride has such a history."
Lenart said she began working with the school system and the city of Fairfax to change the mascot last fall, and references to the Rebel will be removed over the next school year as it is fiscally responsible. She said new team uniforms purchased during the past school year did not include the team name, and centrally-school created items did not display Rebel.
In the Henrico County suburbs of Richmond, Douglas Freeman High School, whose mascot has always been the Rebels, is seeking public input on whether to change that name.
Douglas Freeman’s principal, John Marshall, said in a release that the school will collect experiences and opinions from students, families, alumni and community members regarding the mascot.
“While our traditions contribute to our strong school culture, this moment in our nation’s history demands that we ask if our symbols and language reflect our core values,” Marshall said.
The school opened in 1954 and is named for Douglas Southall Freeman, a Richmond historian, author and journalist.