MIAMI (CBSMiami) – These days Lawrence Wright spends his time training the next generation of athletes.
But 25 years ago, Wright was in his football prime as a star at the University of Florida. When his Gators romped to a national title in 1995, Wright coined a now-famous phrase. “If you ain’t a Gator, then you’re Gator bait.”
The chant became very popular in Gainesville, but now Wright’s alma mater plans to drop the cheer, citing an ugly historical reference to black children and alligators. Wright said he’s disappointed.
“We’re not talking about picaninnies being chewed up by alligators. Let’s be specific,” said Wright, who is African American. “We’re talking about challenging another school, a competitor, athletically and academically. Nothing more, nothing less than that.”
But a recent wave of civil unrest has spawned a new era of racial sensitivity which has spilled over onto college campuses.
At the University of Texas, there’s a push to change the school song “The Eyes of Texas.”
At Mississipi State, there has been a demand by a star player to stop flying the state flag which bears a Confederate symbol.
“I do think these are all steps in the right direction,” said former Florida State University footballer Kendrick Scott.
He has garnered more than 2,000 signatures to re-name FSU’s football stadium, calling the former president it was named after, Doak Campbell, a segregationist.
“I’m just saying remove the name from the stadium and put it at the library or something,” said Scott. “Let’s remove that as the front face of the school at least, because I recognize that you can’t change history.”
Wright feels that’s exactly what’s happening at Florida and that his Gators are scuttling a proud athletic tradition.
While it may seem he and Scott line up on opposite ends of the political correctness debate, they clearly agree on one thing.
That new slogans and stadium names should not be proof enough that institutions are serious about doing better by Black students.
“It’s an opportunity. That’s the main thing we need, ” said Wright. “When given the chance, we can excel, we have proven that. ”
“There is a difference between progress and change. Progress is getting to the five-yard line, but they don’t change the score in a football game until you cross the goal line. We want real change,” Scott added.