Last month, on the BFS Facebook page, an alumna asked about the BFS Panther, the mascot of the BFS Athletics program. The Panther is relatively new to our athletic program as both our nickname and costumed mascot. BFS Athletic Director David Gardella shared his understanding of the history of the BFS Panther and further information was found among school records in the BFS Archives.
In the 1998-1999 school year, Henry Spinella was our Athletic Director: he noted that one of our Upper School student-athletes felt that BFS athletics could benefit from a costumed mascot to help promote our athletics program and that this student was working to make it a reality. A “Fighting Quaker” was suggested, yet that idea was set aside as there have always been those who feel that such a mascot is inappropriate, even thought it is an oxymoron. A fox, likely in reference to Quakerism’s founder George Fox was also suggested. Henry Spinella agreed that BFS should have such a mascot, as did the school’s administration.
The beginning of the 1999-2000 school year saw a school-wide vote. Five mascots were suggested for the consideration of the entire school: a superhero, a panther, a penguin, a bear and a dog. David Gardella recalled that “the penguin came in second… but the Panther came in first.” Records reveal that the vote was not even close: ballot came in with 143 votes for the penguin and 175 for the panther. It seems a BFS Panther mural was created by an artist in the Pearl Street gym for the following school year. The actual panther mascot costume seems to have finally arrived in the 2006-2007 school year.
It should be noted that our former student newspaper, The Panther Press, obviously chose a title that reflected our panther nickname and mascot. The first publication of The Panther Press in 2003 was an important moment for our school as BFS had then been without a regularly published student newspaper for many years. Our current student newspaper is The Willoughby Street Journal, a title which will likely be retired when the Upper School moves to One MetroTech in September, 2015.
During the 20th Century, particularly in the media, we were often known as “The Quakers.” Photos from the 1970s and 1980s show that some of our athletics t-shirts – and perhaps even uniforms – included a depiction of a man wearing a traditional Quaker hat. In 1955, BFS Upper School students selected a “Quakerman” as the BFS mascot, as mentioned in The Life. According to 1942’s Seventy Five Years of Brooklyn Friends School, we had been known for several years as “the Fighting Quakers.” Of course, the Fighting Quakers is the athletics nickname of Sidwell Friends in Washington, DC and, your historian’s 2010 visit to Sidwell noted a near-caricature of a”Fighting Quaker.” Guilford College’s athletics teams are also known as the Fighting Quakers. All schools that use “The Fighting Quakers” for nicknames fully understand and acknowledge that the term is an oxymoron.