President Kent Fuchs announced a decision that will not sit well with a lot of Gator fans Thursday and that includes the former player most often associated with the cheer of “Gator Bait.”
Lawrence Wright, who famously uttered the phrase, “If you ain’t a Gator, ya Gator bait, baby” after a 1995 win over Florida State at The Swamp, was livid after the announcement that UF will stop using the cheer.
“While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our “Gator Bait” cheer at UF sporting events, there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase,” Fuchs wrote in a UF statement titled “Another Step Toward Positive Change Against Racism. “Accordingly University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer.”
Wright, who was planning to launch a line of bobbleheads, shirts and No. 4 jerseys with the phrase he is well known for, said he was most upset that there was no discussion about it.
“The Gator Nation is a culture, too,” said Wright, who is Black. “It’s not about what happened way back in the past. How about our culture?
“Me and the president need to sit down and talk about this.”
Wright did receive a call from a University Athletic Association official to inform him of the decision.
“I’m not going for it,” said Wright, who won the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation’s best defensive back in 1996. “I created something for us. It’s a college football thing. It’s not a racist thing, It’s about us, the Gator Nation. And I’m Black.
“What about our history as the Gator Nation? We took a program from the top five to No. 1 in the country. I think I’ve done enough, put in the sweat and tears, to get to offer my opinion about something like this.”
Wright was a member of Florida’s first football national title team.
The cheer is used — often with the UF band offering the music to start it — at most UF sporting events. The cheer and the Gator band prompts go back many years before Wright came to Florida. In fact, “Gator Bait” magazine began in 1980.
“It’s not about us not getting along because of a cheer,” Wright said. “Keep the good stuff and abolish the bad things.”