After identifying with Prospector Pete since 1949, Long Beach State introduced its new mascot via social media Monday, a shark named “Elbee,” causing some uproar in the campus community.
The Beach welcomes its new mascot: Elbee!
A few facts about Elbee:
🔹Origins: Belmont Shore
🔹Jersey Number: 49
🔹Pronoun Preference: they/their/them
🔹Activities Include: swimming, studying, sinking teeth into some healthy competition
— Cal State Long Beach (@CSULB) August 17, 2020
Students voted over a year ago to replace the old mascot and landed on the shark as a representation of CSULB’s well-known shark lab in a 53% majority. “Elbee,” which is a phonetic reference to Long Beach’s initials, has a jersey number of 49 and identifies as non-binary, using they/them/theirs pronouns.
“From the start, there was interest in having Elbee representative of both men’s and women’s teams and all members of the Beach community, so Elbee does indeed transcend gender,” said Jeff Cook, associate vice president of strategic communications.
Members of the Beach community have expressed mixed feelings about the rebranding, taking to social media to voice their concerns over the new identity. Prospector Pete had been the school’s mascot since it opened in 1949, and many students and alumni still identify with the “49er” nickname and history.
Recent graduate and former international student who majored in film and electronic arts, May Nyback, took to Instagram to voice her thoughts on the new mascot.
“I think the decision to pronoun the shark as they/them was extremely progressive and promising for our college and community,” Nyback said. “It highlights everyone and set forth a world where everyone is accepted for who they are — even sharks.”
Another alumna, Lioda Aghajani, has conflicting feelings toward the pronoun decision.
“I myself am part of the LBGTQ+ community and appreciate the proper use of pronouns, using it for a shark is a bit excessive but I get that the people who came up with it were probably just trying to be inclusive,” Aghajani said, who graduated in 2018 majoring in communication studies.
Others expressed their disappointment in the school’s decision to continue distancing itself from the retired mascot.
Former Daily Forty-Niner sports editor in 1984, Elliot Teaford, did not take well to the announcement of Elbee’s debut.
Thanks for the chuckle, but I’ll be a 49er first, last and always.
— Elliott Teaford (@ElliottTeaford) August 17, 2020
“Thanks for the chuckle, but I’ll be a 49er first, last and always,” Teaford said on Twitter.
The Daily Forty-Niner conducted polls on social media with results showing overwhelming support for the new mascot, averaging more than 70% of the votes.
In a long process of finding an identity for the Beach, several mascot ideas were eventually narrowed down to three semifinalists: a shark, stingray and the option to have no mascot at all. President Jane Close Conoley approved of the shark mascot in May 2019 and appointed a representative committee to begin development during the 2019-20 academic year.
According to Cook, the mascot’s name came from a collective effort by the Mascot Development Committee.
Despite Elbee’s debut, CSULB students will not be known as “the sharks,” and the campus will maintain its identity as the Beach. The shark is the singular campus mascot, not the campus identity as a whole.
Using the term “49er” to refer to students is still considered to be applicable, according to the campus communications department, as it is in reference to the school’s first president, P. Victor Peterson, proclaiming that the opening of the university meant they had “struck educational gold.”
The shark’s debut was postponed from last spring as CSULB focused its efforts on adapting to virtual instruction in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
As part of the school’s rebranding efforts, CSULB removed the statue of Prospector Pete from the Liberal Arts 5 plaza, where it had been since its erection in 1967.
“Long Beach State is a place where diversity is welcomed and valued,” Conoley said. “Why go with binaries when the ocean is a very big place? We strive to think just as big.”