A high school in Toronto is kicking off the year with a new mascot, after scrapping its old “Raiders” name over concerns about the involvement of pirates in the transatlantic slave trade.

Toronto’s Riverdale Collegiate Institute (RCI) last year announced it would change its team name, and asked students to vote for a new mascot. “Rams” was the winning selection.

Toronto District School Board media relations manager Shari Schwartz-Maltz told True North the school no longer felt “Raiders” was appropriate.

“While pirates are largely benign in pop culture, the actual history of piracy is complex and problematic,” said Schwartz-Maltz.

RCI announced the change in an October council meeting, but staff had investigated the issue for at least a year.

In 2021, RCI staff reached out to past students through an alumni Facebook group, and asked how the name “Raiders” started.

Alumni said the tag originated in the 1960s because footballers needed to toughen the team’s image.

Riverdale named itself after then-professional team “Oakland Raiders,” which had a reputation for being renegades.

“At that time Danforth Tech used to treat us like sissies and Lawrence Park considered us as low life east-enders,” said Mark Stanley, who said he played on the team from years ‘65 to ‘68. “So Riverdale became the […] Riverdale Raiders!”

About an hour’s drive from RCI, another collegiate school made a similar move.

Two years ago, Eastwood Collegiate Institute dropped its team name “Rebels,” saying the name had problematic ties to Confederate soldiers.

“As educators, our responsibility is to build a culture of inclusivity, creating a safe space for all students in which to learn,” a statement from the school at the time said. “We must lead and model messages of inclusion for our students each day.”

According to Eastwood’s statement, the team name was selected in the 1960s without ill intent, but changes had to be made because perceptions of racism still exist.