The University of Texas at San Antonio will end its six-year tradition of using the “Come and Take It” phrase and flag at football games following criticism that using it as a rallying cry perpetuates white supremacy.
UTSA President Taylor Eighmy announced the decision in an email to staff and students Tuesday, almost a month after he said he would launch a task force of stakeholders to determine whether the phrase aligned with the university’s mission. Eighmy decided not to convene a task force.
“The phrase — as well intended as it was upon inception and adoption — has increasingly become incongruent with UTSA Athletics and our institution’s mission and core values,” Eighmy wrote. “For our athletics program and our university — each with so much promise and upward momentum — there is no benefit to becoming embroiled in a divisive issue that could carry well into the future and negatively affect our progress.”
The university’s use of the “Come and Take It” motto and flag drew scrutiny last month after UTSA opened the new Roadrunner Athletics Center of Excellence. The $40.4 million facility prominently featured signage with the UTSA Roadrunner mascot’s image above the phrase, similar to the famous 1835 Gonzales flag.
Soon afterward, Ellen Riojas Clark, professor emerita in the Bicultural Bilingual Studies Division, started a Change.org petition to have the slogan removed from the facility. Clark called the “Come and Take It” phrase racist, anti-Mexican, and pro-slavery. The petition garnered more than 950 signatures.
On Tuesday, Clark updated the petition to include Eighmy’s decision to remove the slogan from all physical and digital environments associated with UTSA, including on licensed merchandise and playing fields. “We support you in this decision to do the right thing for UTSA, our students, and our communities,” Clark wrote.
On Twitter, some UTSA football fans lamented the change to the fourth-quarter tradition. Some said it was the right decision to make.
I’ll be bringing my come and take it flag to the games.— Brenda Leal (@brenda_v_) September 7, 2021
Absolutely disappointing. https://t.co/wezFBswNvU
Disappointed with @PresidentEighmy ‘s decision today regarding the “Come and Take It” slogan for UTSA’s football team. He bent and broke to the pressure. What a shame.— Richie Miller (@rich_drummerboy) September 7, 2021
The origins of the “Come and Take It” slogan go back to 1835. A bronze, Spanish-made cannon became an object of contention between a Mexican military detachment from Bexar and American colonists who had settled in Texas, according to the Texas State Historical Association. The colonists of Gonzales refused to return the cannon to Mexicano authorities, who had given the colonists the cannon for defense against Native Americans. The phrase “Come and Take It” is the motto adopted by the Texian rebels. Two women from Gonzales crafted a flag with an image of a cannon on it and the words “Come and Take It,” which was raised above the cannon during the Battle of Gonzales.
More recently, the flag made an appearance when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Many pro-gun conservative groups also have carried the flag during public demonstrations.
UTSA Athletics formally adopted the “Come and Take It” phrase and flag in 2016, unfurling a blue-and-orange flag before the fourth quarter of football games and firing a cannon. Eighmy said he has directed Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Lisa Campos to work with the football team, and students along with the Student Government Association, Staff Senate, Faculty Senate, and the Alumni Association to come up with a new fourth-quarter rallying cry for the 2022 season.
For the 2021 season, UTSA will conduct special celebrations at each home game to honor the individuals and groups that have made the football program a success, Eighmy wrote.