Skip to main content

Florida Great Danny Wuerffel Weighs In On 'Gator Bait' Controversy

Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel prepares for a snap.

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 16: Quaterback Danny Wuerffel #7 of the Florida Gators calls the play during an NCAA game against the South Carolina Gamecocks on November 16, 1996 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators defeated the Gamecocks 52-25. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

On Thursday, University of Florida president Kent Fuchs outlined steps that the school would be taking to combat racism on campus. One of the steps that has proven most controversial is ending the famous "Gator Bait" chant at football games and other athletic events.

Many probably did not realize some of the connotations associated with "Gator Bait," going all the way back to the 1800s. The Undefeated and Snopes both have pieces detailing a gruesome history, with Black children being used as literal bait by alligator hunters in Florida and elsewhere in the Southeast. While the cheer isn't rooted in this act, it is very evocative of it.

“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 his release about the changes coming to campus. “Accordingly, University Athletics and the Gator Band will discontinue the use of the cheer. “It is past time for UF to commit and engage in this challenging, uncomfortable, transformational work."

One of the best players in Florida history is supporting the cause. Danny Wuerffel, a four-time SEC Champion quarterback and the 1996 Heisman winner for Florida, thinks it is time to put it to rest. "While most of us had no clue of the racist history of “Gator bait,” it clearly is associated with some horrific stuff," he wrote on Twitter this morning.

https://twitter.com/dannywuerffel/status/1274358322846666752?s=21

Not everyone in the Gator football family is on Danny Wuerffel's side, though. Lawrence Wright, the former Florida player who popularized the phrase is not happy with the decision.

From the News-Press:

“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.”

[...]

“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.”

Per the report, the school reached out to Wright around the time the announcement was made.