Tulane Ultimate Frisbee changes racist name, addresses privilege

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Tulane Ultimate Frisbee changes racist name, addresses privilege

The Tulane Ultimate Frisbee team huddles during a practice.

The Tulane Ultimate Frisbee team huddles during a practice.

Sabrina Dillon | Staff Photographer

The Tulane Ultimate Frisbee team huddles during a practice.

Sabrina Dillon | Staff Photographer

Sabrina Dillon | Staff Photographer

The Tulane Ultimate Frisbee team huddles during a practice.

Sam Butler, Contributing Writer

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Sam Butler is the co-captain of the Tulane Ultimate Frisbee Team. If you’d like to write an op-ed on behalf of a student organization, email [email protected]

Starting this season, we at Tulane “Rex” Ultimate have officially changed our name to “Tucks” Ultimate. After deliberation by our team leadership, we decided we no longer want to be associated with or named after the Krewe of Rex. 

The Krewe has a problematic history rife with racism and privilege. It was started by rich New Orleans elites who made their money on the backs of slaves, and it didn’t integrate until 1991 — when it was forced to. It still holds galas with krewes who chose to disband rather than integrate. The list goes on.

This change may seem like something small or inconsequential, but we think it’s more like a first step for us. Our team, and more broadly, ultimate frisbee as a sport, share with the krewes of Mardi Gras some of the same issues regarding inclusion.

Similar to a lot of krewes, the culture surrounding the sport of ultimate frisbee can at first glance be described as very welcoming. While this is true to some extent, we must acknowledge that ultimate frisbee is a sport of privilege.

Privilege to spare a weekend for a tournament, privilege to afford the travel there, the tournament fees, the jerseys, the cleats — players largely pay for these things out of pocket. Ultimate frisbee players love to tout the welcoming, friendly nature of the sportsmanship-first “spirit of the game” concept that underlies the sport’s rulebook, but it’s only welcoming once they’ve paid their way onto the field.

Sure, it makes sense that these expenses have to come out of the players’ or their parents’ wallets. The sport is unfortunately structured in a way that only allows those with money to play. Ultimate frisbee doesn’t have the resources from youth, high school and college athletic programs that sports like soccer or football do.

But as a college team, with funding from Tulane Club Sports, we have a unique opportunity to reach people who’ve never had the opportunity to try the sport. Any Tulane student, regardless of background, has a perfect chance to learn ultimate frisbee. Why, then, would we have a team name that celebrates unearned privilege, wealth and racism? The name change is a necessary and extremely crucial step toward the success of the program moving forward.

Now, I’m not saying that changing our name to Tucks will magically fix the diversity problem in ultimate frisbee — it won’t, of course — but it is a step in the right direction, especially for our team. Our name is our identity — it’s what we cheer at the beginning and end of every meeting, every practice, every game. 

The Krewe of Tucks embodies an actual spirit of inclusiveness, listing their only requirement to join as wanting to “enjoy yourself, have a great time, and put on a magnificent show for the viewing crowd.” Tucks truly preaches a spirit of welcoming and fun — a spirit that should be at the basis of our team.

I played on Rex for three full years. I joined in 2016 as a meek freshman, looking up to our then-upperclassmen, hearing stories of them qualifying for nationals and hearing former players described as on-field superheroes. “Rex” felt like something bigger than me — the name was our team’s history. 

To us it represented a spirit of hustle, camaraderie and hard work. But just because it has meaning to our team doesn’t mean it’s dissociated from the privileged, racist krewe that is Rex.

Sometimes a change like this is a necessary step to move forward. Hopefully, this symbolic shift will push us toward making substantial change for our team. We won’t forget or ignore our time as Rex, but we will take the best aspects — the hard-working spirit, the camaraderie — and bring them with us into this new era as Tucks. 

An era that, if we do things right, will be defined as not just an era of success on the field for our team, but as an era of true growth off of it.