From Cavaliers to Cougars: Kingsley changes mascot


Kingsley Junior High School students were greeted with a new mascot to start the 2021 school year — the Cougar — after announcing the decision to replace the Cavalier mascot in May. The change was motivated by the school’s value of community.

The Mid-April edition of the Kingsley Connection, the school’s monthly newsletter, explained the problematic components of the Cavalier: “We were surprised to find that “Cavalier,” as branded at Kingsley, was a follower of King Charles I of England, who was beheaded due to his disregard for the English Parliament and authoritarian rule,” the Connection stated. “The Kingsley core value of community was not emulated by the Cavaliers.”

Conversations about the historical significance of the Cavalier, which has served as Kingsley’s mascot since the school opened in 2003, began after the junior high received feedback from students and families on school improvement issues.

In selecting a new mascot, Kingsley considered students’ nominations and  input before ultimately electing the Cougar through a school-wide vote. 

The Kingsley Connection cited the cat’s diverse habitats, ability to work with others, and lack of “natural enemies” as aspects of the Cougar that reflected Kingsley’s community mission.

Kingsley alumni and incoming Normal Community seniors offered their opinion on the mascot change.

Lauren Novotney offered a national perspective on the topic, saying: “Our society is witnessing more and more changes based on historical events, which I believe is important for our country to become more united.” 

In the last eighteen months, the NFL’s Washington Football Team  and MLB’s Cleveland franchise began the process of changing their mascots.

At the collegiate level, Indiana’s Valparaiso University announced that they would no longer carry the Crusader name.

Adopting a new mascot is not always a swift transition.

The University of Illinois retired the Chief (although they kept the Fighting Illini nickname) in 2007, and a replacement has not been named despite a recent proposal by the Academic Senate. 

Despite the recent surge in mascot changes, not all institutions are rushing to re-evaluate.

While Kingsley took issue with the history of the Cavalier, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and the University of Virginia Cavaliers are two high-profile athletic organizations that still use the name.

While these organizations are yet to receive serious criticism for the Cavalier mascot, UVA altered a logo due to the image’s connection to slavery. 

Cleveland adopted the Cavalier nickname after conducting a contest in the early 1970s. Jerry Tomko, whose submission won, saw the Cavaliers as a noble title, describing them as “a group of daring, fearless men, whose life’s pact was never surrender, no matter what the odds.

NCHS’s Ian Kuhlman views the Cavalier in the same light as Tomko.

“I don’t feel like they should [change the name] because it has always been a Cavalier and the people that came before us . . . . they’ve always known it as a Cavalier,” Kuhlman said.

“If we were the Kingsley Redskins . . . I do think that there is a problem there,” Kyle Gorman (’22) said. “I just think that [the] Cavalier is not such a bad thing.”

The Cougar lacked support amongst NCHS’s Kingsley grads due to its lack of originality as a mascot.

“While I agree with the change,” Novotney said, “I am not a fan of the new cougar mascot,” adding that another Unit 5 school, Prairieland Elementary, already uses the name Cougars.

This is not new to Unit 5, however, as Carlock Elementary, Glenn Elementary, and Evans Junior High all share the Eagle as a mascot.

Kendall Macmillan also addressed the fact that the name is not unique in Unit 5, but called the Cougar “the best choice” because it was chosen by a schoolwide vote.

“I don’t love the new name,” Gorman said, calling it “generic” and “boring.”

The Cougar is the 8th most popular mascot with nearly 588 instances in the U.S, according to the Mascot Database. In comparison, the Cavaliers are 42nd, with 111 organizations using the name.

“If it [the name Cavaliers] has a bad meaning, then it need[ed to be] changed in order to be respectful to all groups of people,” Macmillan said.