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Ole Miss Is Still Battling Its Mascot Demons, Among Others

SB Nation has obtained an early copy of a newspaper ad set to run Friday in Mississippi speaking out against the Mississippi Rebels' black bear mascot. But first, a quick guide to your recent Ole Miss protests:

1. Remember that time last year when a group of disgruntled Ole Miss fans got together to take out newspaper ads calling for the heads of their athletic director and president? Sure you do -- it happened right about the time Rebel football hit rock bottom in a 30-7 loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores, and a few weeks before head coach Houston Nutt (en route to a 2-10 record) was fired and then-A.D. Pete Boone announced his resignation. The group, named "Forward Rebels," sought to oust Boone specifically, and officially disbanded this summer.

2. Ostensibly, none of that had to do with the uproar over the 2009 banning of the anthem "From Dixie With Love," at the end of which some fans had taken to chanting, "The South will rise again!" The ban, from then-freshly appointed president Dan Jones, earned national media coverage and a visit from a handful of local, publicity-savvy Ku Klux Klan members, who were booed off campus by a coalition of Ole Miss and LSU Tigers fans (here's a video from that protest; needless to say, it wasn't a revival of "In The Heat Of The Night").

3. Technically, none of the above is related to the ongoing battle between the university and various sects of fans, alumni and boosters who are angry over the removal of the Colonel Rebel as a sideline mascot. Colonel Reb was first removed in 2003 and then replaced in a student election by the Black Bear in 2010, much to the very vocal dismay of Colonel supporters.

Technically, except that the author of the latest anti-mascot advertisement, Lee Habeeb, a national talk radio producer and National Review contributor, is also the former spokesman for Forward Rebels, which, while rallying Ole Miss fans to push for the ouster of its then-leaders in athletics, publicly stated that it had no stance on the bitter Colonel Rebel issue.

In his latest ad, Habeeb is speaking individually and writes from the perspective of a disenfranchised black bear, who finally surmises, "in the end, I've learned that you can't force people to love anything. Not another person. Not an author or a movie or a color. Not even a mascot."

(click to enlarge, of course)


When reached for comment, new Ole Miss athletic director Ross Bjork declined to comment on the latest advertisement, but issued the following statement to SB Nation:

"Since I arrived to Ole Miss in April, I've seen our fans in Rebel Nation uniting more and more every day. In fact, every single person I've encountered is hungry for championships, and the unification theme has been the primary request of our university's leadership, but especially in athletics."

Roughly translated, we're pretty sure that means, "We're trying to raise $150 million for new facilities, break a two-year, 14-game SEC losing streak and move past this never-ending PR mess."

But as Ole Miss alumni and Oxford residents are wont to employ William Faulkner quotes at odd times, even in college football marketing campaigns, in Mississippi, it seems the past is never dead. It's not even past.

For more on the Ole Miss Rebels, be sure to check out Red Cup Rebellion and Team Speed Kills.