Christian University to Retire Controversial ‘Crusader’ Mascot

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 21: The mascot for the Valparaiso Crusaders performs against the Michigan State Spartans during the second round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at at The Palace of Auburn Hills on March 21, 2013 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Valparaiso University in Indiana has decided to retire its politically incorrect “Crusader” mascot since the Christian symbol fails to promote “a welcoming and inclusive community.”

“This is the right thing to do at the right time and for the right reason,” said Valparaiso Interim President Colette Irwin-Knott, who announced the decision Thursday in a video message to the campus community.

Irwin-Knott said that the task force she had convened to study the matter had “determined the Crusader is not reflective of Valpo’s mission to promote a welcoming and inclusive community.”

The mission of the task force was to study the “appropriateness” of the mascot “given historical and modern implications, and whether it aligns with the University’s values,” she wrote, citing its “divisive connotations”:

Irwin-Knott said that Valparaiso, a Lutheran university, will “retire the Crusader imagery and logos” and it will be up to a new committee, overseen by incoming President José Padilla, to decide what mascot should replace it.

Historically, the Crusades were a series of religious wars between 1096 and 1271 in which Christian forces sought primarily to take back the Holy Land from Islamic rule. Jerusalem had come under Muslim rule following the Siege of Jerusalem in 637 AD in which the city fell to the invading Rashidun army.

The English word “crusade” comes from the French croisade, meaning the way of the cross, since Christians marching to the Holy Land carried standards bearing the sign of the cross and often had a cross emblazoned on their armor or outer garments.

Irwin-Knott said that the school’s mascot has been “under significant scrutiny during the past few decades” for its association with “aggressive religious oppression and violence.”

Any symbol that is “associated with hate groups and hate speech” cannot represent the university, she said.

Irwin-Knott also claimed that a Crusader symbol does not “align with” its identity as a “faith-based institution.”

In its mission statement, Valparaiso University professes to be “a community of learning dedicated to excellence and grounded in the Lutheran tradition of scholarship, freedom, and faith, prepares students to lead and serve in both church and society.”

The university’s move also came in response to an online petition launched in late 2020 to retire the Crusader.

“The Crusader name and imagery represent war, violence, racism, xenophobia, and forced assimilation — one of the darkest periods in Christian history,” the petition declared.

“This stands in direct contrast to the University’s publicly stated mission and values,” it continued. “As our nation and world face a moment of long overdue reckoning on racial justice, equity, and inclusion, we believe Valpo must be bold to make real changes, including the ways we present our institution to the world.”

In her statement, Irwin-Knott did not announce if the university would also be renaming the Crusaderettes, the Valparaiso female cheerleading squad.

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