Administration forces change of BruCrew theme

Seniors+Tommi+Brundage%2C+Stephen+Sowers+and+Curtis+Holliday+cheer+on+the+Bruins+during+a+football+game+against+Battle+High+School.%0APhoto+by%3A+Cassi+Viox

Seniors Tommi Brundage, Stephen Sowers and Curtis Holliday cheer on the Bruins during a football game against Battle High School. Photo by: Cassi Viox

Nicole Schroeder

Senior BruCrew leader Stephen Sowers holds his breath in anticipation while supporting the Bruins in a game against Battle. Sowers is seen donning green and gold, a theme that was not the first choice of the BruCrew.
Friday night home games are known to bring out large crowds during football season, especially with the help of the RBHS BruCrew, a student-led pep club started in 2004 that encourages various costume themes at the games and organizes tailgates before school sporting events. The first home football game of the year was no exception, as the student section of the bleachers was packed with spectators dressed in outrageous green and gold outfits on Sept. 4.
Yet the ‘green and gold’ theme used at the first football game was not the BruCrew’s original idea, senior Avery Jennings, the current BruCrew leader, said.
“The theme was actually ‘Safari,’” Jennings said. “We just thought would be a fun theme everybody could participate in.”
After talking with Athletics Director David Egan and acting Principal Kathy Ritter before the first home game of the season against Battle High School, Jennings said the administration decided the “safari” theme was too closely related to the “jungle” theme from a few years ago, in which students wore disrespectful costumes and shouted offensive comments at the opposing team during the game.
“We didn’t intend for the ‘safari’ theme to cause any problems,” Jennings said. “If our theme can be taken the wrong way by anybody, it needs to be approved, but most of our themes are harmless…. I wish we could do our themes without being censored, but we live in a world where anybody can be offended by anything.”
People have been offended by themes other than the “jungle” theme in the past as well. Egan said there are numerous BruCrew themes the administration has turned down or has had to stop because of their possibly offensive connotations to other students or schools.
“Certainly, there have been situations where there might be subtle messages associated with certain themes that can be offensive to people and that’s what we generally try to avoid,” Egan said. “We certainly want to give the BruCrew as much freedom as possible and to really encourage them to be creative and to be funny and do what they can, but then it’s our job as a staff and as a school to help them with understanding where that line is and maybe bringing them back a step or two if we need to.”
Senior Ronni Farid has been a member of the BruCrew for three years, and said while she wishes the administration did not restrict the pep club’s theme choices as much as they do, she understands the importance of these decisions.
“I understand both sides of the debate. However, so many things can be taken in the wrong way,” Farid said. “If I were an administrator I wouldn’t have allowed the ‘safari’ theme simply because of the indication.”
“We didn’t intend for the ‘safari’ theme to cause any problems … I wish we could do our themes without being censored, but we live in a world where anybody can be offended by anything.” Even with the bad reputations some past themes have received, though, Egan said the themes themselves are still an important part of the BruCrew’s goal in encouraging school spirit at the sporting events they attend.
“I think that’s sort of the difference as opposed to students just showing up for the game,” Egan said, “is having that sort of common purpose and that unifying theme if you will, that can bring the students together and focus their energies toward the game in helping create that home court or home field advantage for us.”
Jennings agrees and said the BruCrew themes help to create a general atmosphere of school spirit at the games for both the athletes and the fans, which is the BruCrew’s main intent in the first place.
“The main goal of BruCrew is to produce the best possible environment for our athletes and fans. We want to make the other team a little uncomfortable,” Jennings said. “It’s important to the school because we are almost responsible for the mood of the games. The student section has the power to make the game really loud and exciting.”
The BruCrew also adds another of encouragement for RBHS athletes, Farid said, which helps them to perform better during the game, but also shows the school’s appreciation for the amount of effort they put forth in practice and during the games.
“BruCrew is important because it’s not only our student cheer section. I think people really overlook the fact that it’s your peers supporting you in something you love,” Farid said. “From an athlete’s point of view, BruCrew makes me feel like the sport or activity I’m doing really is important, like I’m connected to my school on such a powerful level.”
The role the BruCrew plays in all of the RBHS sporting events is such an important one, Egan said he believes the club will persevere despite the controversies that arise from time to time over their themes. Even if the BruCrew itself doesn’t last, however, Egan said some organized pep club will continue to hold a vital role in the school’s athletic events for the foreseeable future.
“There are many sports that are very popular, so our athletic teams will always draw crowds. They will always draw students, if for no other reason because they like the sport or because it’s a social event and it’s an opportunity for kids to get together and hang out, even if you don’t know anything about football or you don’t know anything about soccer and you could actually really care less about the outcome,” Egan said. “Whether it’s the BruCrew or not, I think there will always be that organized student presence.”
Do you think the BruCrew theme was offensive?