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California and the West

Battle Over School's Aztec Mascot Moves Beyond Campus

Heritage: County supervisors will weigh in today on whether to dump San Diego State's Monty Montezuma. Final decision rests with university president, who is awaiting a nonbinding student vote.

October 10, 2000|TONY PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — The controversy over whether San Diego State University mascot Monty Montezuma should be banned as racist has spread far off campus, with Web sites, petitions, news conferences and now even a vote scheduled today by the county Board of Supervisors.

Two supervisors announced Monday they will ask their three colleagues to join them in pleading with university President Stephen Weber that "it's extremely important to us to continue the proud tradition of the Aztec mascot."

All five supervisors are graduates of San Diego State, which has called its teams Aztecs since 1925 and has had a fully costumed Monty, representing the 16th century Aztec emperor, at its football and basketball games since 1941.

The student council, at the urging of the Native American Student Alliance, has recommended that Weber dump Monty and also study whether the university should retain the Aztec name and logo. The logo, a fierce-looking, red-faced warrior in full headdress, is used on innumerable best-selling campus souvenirs.

"There is absolutely nothing demeaning, nothing racist about Monty," said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. "If anything, Monty helps instill pride, honor and culture. This is about maintaining the traditions of San Diego State University."

Jacob was joined at a news conference by Supervisor Pam Slater. Both wore red and black, San Diego State colors.

"We want to stand up and say we're Aztecs and proud of it," Slater said.

The two supervisors were backed by a San Diego State graduate who played Monty on the field, an alumni association member, and leaders of a "Save Monty" committee.

Meanwhile, Weber is not commenting on the issue, pending a nonbinding vote by the full student body later this month. This follows a vote by the student council on a motion with nine "whereas" clauses and 11 "resolved" clauses that noted Weber's commitment to "internationalism [and] diversity."

Monty yes-or-no has become the hottest issue at San Diego State in years and one of the few to travel off campus. Weber has been deluged with hundreds of pro-Monty comments from alumni. His office established a special Web site, http://www.sdsu.edu/mascot, where they can be posted.

"People should not be mascots," Chicana/Chicano studies major Melissa Castro wrote in the student newspaper, the Daily Aztec. "All this talk about honor makes me sick. Where is the honor when Monty Montezuma mocks our sacred ceremonies at football games?"

A pro-Monty Web site has been established, a petition drive quickly gathered several thousand signatures, and most of the city's newspaper, television and radio commentators have weighed in, some repeatedly. Padres superstar Tony Gwynn, a San Diego State graduate, has lent his support to the save-Monty movement.

"There are a lot of people in San Diego who admire Monty Montezuma and don't want to see anything happen to him," said Carlos Gutierrez, who played Monty for eight years.

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