The Naval Academy announced on Friday that the football team would be changing the team motto for the upcoming season from “Load the Clip” to “Win the Day,” according to a report from Chase Cook of the Capital Gazette. The change was made after reporters raised questions during the motto’s official unveiling about how it would play in a community that experienced a mass shooting just over one year ago, and in the general context of a rising tide of gun violence across the country.
The Naval Academy’s superintendent said the following:
“It is always my priority, part of my mission statement, for the Navy to be a good neighbor,” Naval Academy Superintendent Vice Admiral Sean S. Buck said in a statement released Friday afternoon.
“The bottom line is, we missed the mark here. The initial internal football team motto selected, ‘Load the Clip,’ was inappropriate and insensitive to the community we call home, and for that, I take responsibility for, and apologize to not only the Capital Gazette, but the entire Annapolis community.”
The neighbor that Buck references in his statement is the Capital Gazette, a fellow Annapolis, Md. institution and a publication that unfortunately has first-hand experience with a mass shooting. On June 28, 2018 a gunman—who had repeatedly sent threatening messages to staff that detailed his intentions—entered the Capital Gazette’s newsroom with a shotgun and killed five employees: Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith.
It’s been tradition for the senior captains of Navy Football to announce a team slogan to represent the upcoming season. Last year, the team went with “For the Culture,” and the year before that was “We Will” in honor of fallen teammate, Will McKamey. This year’s original slogan was announced on Conference Media Day by center Ford Higgins, who claimed that the phrase was about having a consistent drive and work ethic.
Coach Ken Niumatalolo told reporters in mid-July that he was initially uncomfortable with the wording, but the fact that his players would likely end up using automatic weapons because they were servicemen made it at least somewhat justifiable in his mind.
Per Bill Wagner of the Capital Gazette:
“Clearly it’s a metaphor that speaks to the fact we’re going to battle every weekend and when you go to battle you need to have enough ammunition,” Niumatalolo said. “It means you have to be prepared for the fight and that is a process that happens every day.”
While it did require someone outside of the program to remind the team why the motto would be insensitive on a local level, as well as a couple of weeks for an official change to be announced, the senior team captains were apparently swift with their decision to make a switch, according to Niumatlolo.
“It was a one-minute meeting. I explained that some people had deemed the motto to be insensitive. Our captains didn’t need to hear another word. They immediately said ‘Coach, let’s just change it.’...,” Niumatalolo said Saturday during Navy’s Football Media Day and Fan Fest.
Niumatalolo added that he was remorseful and that his players simply did not consider the mass shooting that took place over a year ago when making their decision. It’s worth noting that those statements were made in front of a gaggle of reporters that included someone from the Capital Gazette. Also noteworthy is the fact that this decision was not influenced by the recent mass shooting in an El Paso Walmart, or the one at a bar in Dayton, Ohio, as the team spoke about the motto change hours before either had happened on Saturday.