University of Hawaii branded as homophobic in logo flap

HONOLULU - For 77 years, the rainbow has been the symbol and nickname for the University of Hawaii football team, spurred on by the rallying cry, ''Go 'Bows!''

More recently, the rainbow has become a symbol for gay and lesbian pride, which the school's athletics director said was a factor in a decision to drop the rainbow from school logos and the football team's name.

''That logo really put a stigma on our program at times in regards to it's part of the gay community, their flags and so forth,'' Hugh Yoshida said after the new, Polynesian-style ''H'' logo was unveiled this week, replacing the old logo, which had the letters UH and a rainbow.

Now the university is being accused of homophobia by gay and lesbian groups and being criticized by some Native Hawaiians for renaming the football team the Warriors.

''A statement like that I can understand coming from student-athletes, but to come from the athletic director, I am surprised and disappointed,'' said Ken Miller of the Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Yoshida, who earlier said his comments were taken out of context, issued a statement Friday apologizing to anyone he may have offended.

''I understand why some people might consider some of the comments to be derogatory, even if no harm was intended,'' Yoshida said. ''We remain committed to our policies on diversity and inclusiveness.''

Football coach June Jones did not return phone calls seeking comment. Jones had pushed for the logo and name change along with agent Leigh Steinberg, who was hired by the school to market the athletics program.

''The university is sorry if anyone was offended. That was not the intent,'' university spokesman Jim Manke said Thursday.

Hawaii was known as the Fighting Deans during its first football game in 1909. The name Rainbows was used for the first time by reporters following the final game of the 1923 season, an upset victory over Oregon State after which a rainbow appeared over the field.

The school's nickname was changed to Rainbow Warriors in the mid-1960s after the student newspaper ridiculed the name Rainbows and linked it to homosexuals.

Now the school may be walking into another minefield by going with just ''Warriors.''

Many college and professional teams - including baseball's Cleveland Indians and football's Washington Redskins - have been pressured to change their Indian-related names and mascots.

Jonathan Osorio, an associate professor at the university's Center for Hawaiian Studies, said he personally has no problem with the name Warriors since it's used by many cultures and isn't specific to one group of people.

But he said some Hawaiian students believe the nickname improperly co-opts a piece of their culture.

''We feel powerless about how these symbols are used. When they appear as ridiculous or burlesqued images, there's nothing we can do about it,'' said Osorio, a Native Hawaiian. ''It feels like they're making fun of our culture.''


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