Utah School Rejects ‘Cougar’ Mascot to Avoid Offending Older Women

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Anita Erdmann / Getty Images

The graceful, agile cougar has been a longtime favorite for school mascots

Team mascots have a history of offending. Organizations from professional football franchises to inconspicuous elementary schools have often come under scrutiny for mascots referencing Native Americans, for example. But choosing, say, an animal, and not an ethnic group, has generally been a safe bet. Until now.

Canyons School Board members in Draper, Utah have rejected the “Cougars” as a high school mascot, deeming it offensive to older women. When granted the opportunity to vote, nearly a quarter of Corner Canyon High School’s future students opted for alliteration and settled on the Corner Canyon Cougars, Salt Lake City Fox affiliate KSTU reported. Despite the fact that the Cougar is one of the most common school monikers in the country, the board vetoed the choice.

The term “cougar” has crept into English vernacular to reference an older woman who seeks romantic relationships with younger men. When you search for “cougar” on Google, the Wikipedia entry for “Age disparity in sexual relationships” appears just beneath the traditional feline definition. Late-night jokes and T.V. series like Cougar Town have centered on this unofficial definition of the word.

To avoid any trace of offensive connotations, the school board instead selected the “Chargers” as the mascot for Corner Canyon High, set to open in 2013. The ban does not bode well for cougars — the feline version, that is — who may also be forced to change their name to something less offensive. We hear John Mellencamp went through a similar ordeal.

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