George Washington University is dropping the long-standing moniker “colonials” after deeming the term offensive

George Washington University is dropping the long-standing moniker “colonials” after deeming the term offensive

George Washington University is the latest institution to change its sports team’s nickname, dropping the 86-year-old moniker “Colonials” once they find a replacement.

The DC-based private university is dropping its nickname “Colonials” because “it can no longer serve its purpose as a consistent name,” the school announced Wednesday.

This is despite a survey of 7,300 students suggesting the feelings weren’t particularly strong either way. Only 44 percent responded that they wanted to abandon Colonials, while 43 percent said it should stay.

The special committee formed to study the name found that the name “arose incidentally and haphazardly, without thoughtful university-wide consideration.”

However, President Mark S. Wrighton said he was ok with the move and said their research concluded it was the right choice.

George Washington University is the latest institution to change its sports team’s nickname, dropping the 86-year-old moniker “Colonials” once they find a replacement

President Mark S. Wrighton (pictured) said he concurred with the move and said their research concluded it was the right choice

President Mark S. Wrighton (pictured) said he concurred with the move and said their research concluded it was the right choice

A special committee investigated the history of the name and submitted a report to the school president in March 2021, which the school has used since 1926

A special committee investigated the history of the name and submitted a report to the school president in March 2021, which the school has used since 1926

“As we begin our third century, we must continue to lead with our values, strengths and the diversity of the George Washington University community,” he said.

“While some may disagree with the outcome, this process has determined that changing the nickname is the right decision for our university.”

Not only do the athletic teams use the name, but the university’s medical facility is the Colonial Health Center, and meals and laundry are paid for in Colonial Cash.

GW will continue to use “Colonials” until a new name is introduced. This is expected by the academic year 2023/24.

The school has largely steered away from public use of the Colonials moniker in recent rebrandings, favoring a large-format, bold “GW” and only using the name George Washington on uniforms and a mascot resembling the first president.

The school has largely steered away from public use of the Colonials moniker in recent rebrandings, favoring a large-scale, bold

The school has largely steered away from public use of the Colonials moniker in recent rebrandings, favoring a large-scale, bold “GW.”

The George Washington Colonials mascot competes in the second half against the Massachusetts Minutemen during the second round of the 2022 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament

The George Washington Colonials mascot competes in the second half against the Massachusetts Minutemen during the second round of the 2022 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament

“A nickname must unite our community, bring people together and serve as a source of pride,” said Grace Speights, Chair of the University Board of Trustees. “We look forward to the next steps in an inclusive process to find a nickname that delivers on that aspiration.”

A special committee investigated the history of the name and submitted a report to the school president in March 2021, which the school has used since 1926.

The school also formed a committee at the time to change the name of its Cloyd Heck Marvin Student Center, named after a former university president who advocated for separation.

The building was given the more generic name University Student Center in June 2021.

According to an online university statement, that committee found that proponents of “colonials” refer to “those who lived in the American colonies, particularly those who fought for independence and democracy,” while opponents use the term as a reference consider ‘Colonizers who stole land and resources from indigenous groups, killed or exiled indigenous people and introduced slavery to the colonies.’

The team competes in most Atlantic 10 conference sports, including men's basketball

The team competes in most Atlantic 10 conference sports, including men’s basketball

Students walk past a statue of George Washington on the campus of George Washington University

Students walk past a statue of George Washington on the campus of George Washington University

The university said Wednesday that a “broad community engagement process” will help decide on the new name.

The school’s teams compete in the Atlantic-10 Conference, where they face off against such competitors as the George Mason Patriots, Massachusetts Minutemen and La Salle Explorers, as well as three schools with the same moniker, the Fordham, Virginia Commonwealth and Rhode Island Aries .

There were several name and logo changes within the conference. Rival St. Bonaventure dropped the nickname “Brown Indians” in 1992.

George Washington is the last Washington DC-based team to change its name.

In the 1990s, the Washington Bullets became known as the Washington Wizards. More recently, and even more infamously, the Washington soccer team changed its name from Redskins to Commanders.

what’s in a name Sport team and logos change to avoid insults

The Washington Commanders aren’t the only professional or collegiate sports to recently change names under pressure from Native American groups or other social justice organizations:

A young Indians fan in the stands holds up a foam Chief Wahoo and Slider doll during the fifth inning of the Major League Baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians August 8, 2018 at Progressive Field in Cleveland

A young Indians fan in the stands holds up a foam Chief Wahoo and Slider doll during the fifth inning of the Major League Baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians August 8, 2018 at Progressive Field in Cleveland

  • Nebraska Cornhuskers logo (NCAA, 2022): Just yesterday, it was announced that the Big Ten school changed its mascot, Herbie Husker, to no longer make the “OK” symbol associated with white supremacy becomes
  • Cleveland Indians to Cleveland Guardians (MLB, 2021): After retiring its Chief Wahoo logo, the American League franchise permanently ditched the name ahead of the 2022 season
  • North Dakota Fighting Sioux to North Dakota Fighting Hawks (NCAA, 2015): The nickname was retired in 2012, but the state of North Dakota passed a law barring the university from adopting a new nickname until January 2015
  • Arkansas State Indians to Arkansas State Red Wolves (NCAA, 2008): One of the first team names changed in response to the NCAA’s 2005 ban on ethnically or racially derogatory mascots at championship events
  • University of Illinois Fighting Illini (NCAA, 2007): While the state university kept its old name, it retired Native American mascot Chief Illiniwek, saying the team’s name now refers to residents of the state

Staffers put up Cleveland Guardians signage on Progressive Field on November 19, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio.  The Cleveland Indians officially changed their name to the Cleveland Guardians in November

Staffers put up Cleveland Guardians signage on Progressive Field on November 19, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cleveland Indians officially changed their name to the Cleveland Guardians in November