A controversy brewing over the name of a University of Southern California mascot’s horse has bubbled back up.
A story Thursday in The Daily Trojan reported that a speaker at a USC rally called attention to the name of the mascot’s horse, Traveler, which is similar to the name of a horse ridden by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee during the Civil War – Traveller. Saphia Jackson, co-director of the USC Black Student Assembly, told the crowd that white supremacy hits close to home in reference to the mascot’s horse, reported the USC newspaper.
The USC Black Student Assembly has since declined to comment on the remarks to The Daily Trojan and other newspapers, and there are no reports of any organized effort to rename or replace the horse.
That hasn’t stopped an upswelling of online outrage stoked by right-wing news sites.
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The Los Angeles Times reports that the Traveler tradition at USC dates back to 1961, when university officials spotted a white horse, formerly used in movies, being ridden in the Rose Parade and hired its owner to appear before a football game in Trojan armor on the horse. The current Traveler is the ninth, the Times said.
A USC biography of Traveler strenuously denies any connection to Lee’s horse.
“USC’s mascot horse is a symbol of ancient Troy. Its rider, with costume and sword, is a symbol of a Trojan warrior,” the final paragraph reads. “The name Traveler, spelled with one ‘l,’ is a common name among horses. … USC’s Traveler is and has always been a proud symbol of Troy. There is no truth to any other claims or rumors about its name.”
Traveller was the most famous horse ridden by Lee during the Civil War. He rode the horse, which Lee acquired in 1862 and which died shortly after him in 1871, during several key battles.
Some online wags have now connected the Traveler controversy to a decision by ESPN to reassign broadcaster Robert Lee, who is Asian American, from covering a University of Virginia football game following the Charlottesville, Va., protests.