I had no idea that fans of the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners even used “Come and take it” as part of its branding for its sports teams, because I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually seen any sort of college matchup featuring UTSA (not exactly known as an athletic powerhouse). Still, I think it’s a pretty cool nod to history. After all, the phrase (or something similar) has long been used as a rallying cry for fighters facing long odds for thousands of years; from Leonidas and the Spartans at Thermopylae in 480 BC to (most importantly for a Texas university) the Texans at the Battle of Gonzales in 1835.
It’s apparently that last usage of the phrase that’s become problematic for some of the woke scolds in the Lone Star State, who’ve convinced UTSA to ban the use of the phrase during athletic events.
The University of Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) dropped the slogan “Come and Take It” ahead of its first home game over the weekend amid concerns about potential racial connotations associated with it.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy issued a letter to students, staff and faculty on Sept. 7, announcing that the rallying cry would not be used at athletic contests. At football games, a flag reading “Come and Take It” would be unfurled during the fourth quarter along with the firing of the cannon. The tradition was paused last season as fans were not allowed at games due to the pandemic.
Eighmy, who mentioned the possibility of launching a task force into the phrase in August, said that wouldn’t happen and instead, ended the tradition altogether.
“The matter has become a distraction from our mission and is likely to continue shifting our focus away from our work yet to be accomplished. Further, we will identify the use of this phrase in our digital environment, in licensed merchandise, and in our buildings and playing fields, and will systematically and appropriately remove it,” he said in the letter.
Why on earth is the university banning a phrase steeped in ancient, U.S., and Texas history? in his letter, Eighmy provided this weaselly excuse.
Over the last decade, the phrase has become increasingly affiliated with cultural and political issues beyond its traditional historical context. In the time since it was last used at a home game on November 23, 2019, the phrase has been adopted by organizations and movements across the political spectrum. A simple online search of webpages, articles and images involving this phrase reveals the myriad of ways numerous organizations have adopted it for their particular cause. Many of these organizations have values and agendas that differ significantly from ours and our clear focus on excellence in intercollegiate athletics and higher education.
Why yes, it is true that the phrase “Come and take it” has been used by a variety of groups across the political spectrum. Given that’s the case, why would it be objectionable for UTSA to use the phrase? Well, apparently a professor at the university named Ellen Clark started a petition demanding that the slogan be cancelled because she claims it “embodies both anti-Mexican and pro-slavery sentiment,” adding that it “has carried those white supremacist beliefs from 1835 to today, and in that time has also been widely adopted by anti-government, pro-gun extremists, such as at the January 6th insurrection at the US Capital.”
Oh give me a break. It’s also been used by pro-abortion activists in Texas, though for some reason Clark doesn’t appear to be upset about that.
Of course, while the university can ban the use of the phrase in its official materials and branding, it’s a lot harder to stop students, staff, and alumni from displaying those four words. And at UTSA’s last football game, there were still plenty of “Come and take it” flags to be seen.
At least one member of the UT Board of Regents has also criticized the decision, saying the board “does not support abandoning traditions and history that mean much to students, alumni, and other Texans.” Kevin Eltife went on to describe himself as “very disappointed” with the decision, and added that he will “will immediately ask our Board to establish policies that ensure that the governing body of the UT System will have the opportunity in the future to be consulted before important university traditions and observances are changed.”
That’s all fine and good, but it never should have come to this. UTSA’s president should have simply said that, while he recognizes a variety of groups across the political spectrum have used the phrase, the university’s adoption of “Come and take it” is based on Texas history and the fight for independence, and should not be seen as an endorsement of any particular political point of view. Instead, he bent his knee to the speech police, and now the university has to determine how far its willing to take its ban. Will it start removing fans with “Come and take it” flags from the Alamodome? What happens if a chant breaks out during a game?
Ironically, it sounds UTSA’s decision to ban the phrase from campus has prompted its own rebellion, and I’m okay with that. I’d love to see ten thousand Gonzales flags waving this weekend as the UTSA Roadrunners take on the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State, and if the university president doesn’t like what he sees I guess he could always try to go and take them.