The United States Naval Academy’s football team dropped the motto for its 2019 season, “Load the Clip,” on Friday amid concerns that it was insensitive to victims of gun violence, particularly those at The Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Md., where a man shot and killed five staff members last year.
In a statement, the Naval Academy’s superintendent, Vice Admiral Sean Buck, called the motto “inappropriate and insensitive to the community we call home.”
The team’s stadium, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, is less than three miles from The Gazette newsroom.
“I take responsibility for, and apologize to, not only The Capital Gazette, but the entire Annapolis community,” he said. “It is always my priority, part of my mission statement, for the Navy to be a good neighbor. The bottom line is, we missed the mark here.”
The team’s decision to replace its motto came days after a mass shooting in Gilroy, Calif., and just before a mass shooting in El Paso that killed 20 people on Saturday and another shooting that killed at least nine in Dayton, Ohio, on Sunday.
“We sincerely apologize if it upset anyone,” Ken Niumatalolo, the team’s head coach, said during Navy’s Football Media Day and Fan Fest on Saturday, The Gazette reported. “We understand that it probably wasn’t appropriate considering the current climate and certain things that are happening in our society.”
For the past several years, team captains have been tasked with choosing a motto that sets the tone for the upcoming football season, Scott Strasemeier, the team’s spokesman, said in a statement.
This year’s captains — Paul Carothers, Nizaire Cromartie, Ford Higgins and Malcolm Perry — chose “Load the Clip,” a phrase intended to be a metaphor for a consistent, daily work ethic, in preparation for game day, Mr. Strasemeier said.
On Thursday, The Gazette reported on the slogan, prompting the team to reconsider it, Mr. Strasemeier said. The team captains met Friday afternoon, then announced the new motto: “Win the Day,” a slogan that still speaks to the work ethic needed for success, he said.
In an editorial on Sunday, The Gazette applauded the decision to change the slogan “from the gun-glory image initially adopted to a more traditional message about victory.”
The editorial continued: “It’s clear the midshipmen responsible did not see the connection between ‘Load the clip,’ a reference to ammunition magazines and a readiness to keep firing, and the gun violence that is tearing this nation apart.”
Chet Gladchuck, the Navy director of athletics, said in a statement: “On behalf of the team at large, our sincerest apologies to anyone who was offended. We are hopeful we can now put this behind us and ‘Win the Day.’”