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Missouri town asks University of Kansas to get rid of mascot

September 20, 2011 |  4:31 pm

University of Kansas Jayhawk The tiny Missouri town of Osceola has a simple request.

It wants the University of Kansas to drop its mascot, the Jayhawk.

Oh, and another thing: Get rid of that big K.

“No citizen of the City of Osceola or the alumni of the University of Missouri shall ever capitalize the ‘k’ in ‘kansas’ or ‘kU,’ as neither is a proper name or a proper place,” Osceola’s Board of Aldermen ordered in a resolution passed last week. The resolution marked the upcoming 150th anniversary of a Civil War raid in which an abolitionist Kansas militia — “a group of domestic terrorist(s) referred to as ‘the jayhawkers’” — burned down four of the city’s five buildings and executed several Osceola residents.

The resolution, it may shock you to learn, probably won’t change anything, as its framer already knows.

“I don’t expect them to do anything,” resident Rick Reed, who brought the resolution before the aldermen, told the Columbia Daily Tribune, referring to university officials. “They are so arrogant and uppity.” 

Here is the Tribune’s account of the raid:

"On Sept. 22, 1861, Osceola was a prosperous city of 2,500. The town lived on Osage River commerce and was split between Unionists and secessionists. U.S. Sen. Jim Lane led his band of about 2,000 “jayhawkers” in the Kansas Brigade to the city for a two-day orgy of looting, arson, drunkenness and murder. A dozen men were executed on the town square. When the attackers left — taking away all the property and livestock they could move — the town was a smoking ruin, and fewer than 200 people remained. The town has never again had as many people as it did before the raid."

The Civil War ostensibly ended in 1865, yet lives on as a bitter rivalry colloquially known as the “Border War” between the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas — or “kU,” as Osceola now officially calls it. (Disclosure: This reporter is a University of Missouri graduate, bound here to follow Los Angeles Times style.)

“Have you seen the Jayhawk?” University of Kansas director of university relations Todd Cohen asked this reporter, who has, in fact, spotted the Jayhawk at several football games against the Missouri Tigers. “The Jayhawk is a big blue bird that wears boots. We don’t think that anybody would confuse that with a terrorist. But we admit to terrorizing Missouri on the basketball court for some time now.” (True.)

This seems to be a common refrain. Another University of Kansas representative made a similar comment to the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Cohen was also quick to point out that KU is located in Lawrence, Kan., which was burned to the ground by rebel Missourian William Quantrill in an 1863 raid undertaken as revenge for the Osceola raid. The attack was memorialized in Ang Lee’s 1999 film, “Ride with the Devil,” and remains a politically incorrect point of pride for a few cantankerous Missouri fans.

And no, Kansas will not be changing its mascot.

“It’s all in good fun,” Cohen said.

Maybe.

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--Matt Pearce in Kansas City (…Missouri)
twitter / mattdpearce

Photo: The town of Osceola, Mo., has taken issue with the University of Kansas mascot, the Jayhawk, even aside from the basketball team's treatment of the University of Missouri's team. Credit: AP / Charlie Neibergall, File

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