University of Florida president Kent Fuchs announced yesterday (June 18th) that the school will no longer allow the "Gator Bait" cheer at sports events, saying, "While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our 'Gator Bait' cheer . . . there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase." When the school band plays the tune for the cheer, fans make a chomping motion with their arms and shout "Gator Bait!" ESPN cited the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia as saying African American babies were used as alligator bait, citing newspaper articles and imagery from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the term was also used as a racial slur against African Americans.Lawrence Wright, who was a black player at Florida, popularized the phrase, "If you ain't a Gator, ya Gator bait, baby," after saying it after a 1995 win. He told The Gainesville Sun he's upset with the school's decision.
According to theJim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University, African American children were sometimes used to bait alligators in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Newspaper articles and postcards from the time period also highlight the practice.