‘Surrender to cancel culture:’ Emails show blowback, support for UTSA’s decision to remove ‘Come and Take It’

KSAT obtained emails sent to UTSA President Taylor Eighmy in the wake of his decision to no longer use the phrase

‘Surrender to cancel culture:’ Emails show blowback, support for UTSA’s decision to remove ‘Come and Take It’

SAN ANTONIO – In early September, UTSA President Taylor Eighmy made the controversial decision to remove and no longer use the “Come and Take It” phrase and signage that had been adopted in 2016 by the athletics department and by fans as a rallying cry during sporting events.

In an email sent to UTSA staff, faculty, alumni and students on Sept. 7, 2021, Eighmy wrote in part that “after much research, consultation and deliberation, I am ending this rather young UTSA athletics tradition at this time.”

Eighmy wrote that the “matter has become a distraction from our mission and likely to continue shifting our focus away from our work yet to be accomplished.”

The use of the “Come and Take It” slogan was removed from all licensed merchandise, UTSA affiliated buildings, playing fields and all digital properties.

Despite the phrase being formally adopted by UTSA Athletics in 2016, controversy surfaced in early August after UTSA professor Ellen Riojas Clark started an online petition to remove the phrase following the unveiling of the new Roadrunners Athletics Center of Excellence (RACE). The “Come and Take It” signage with the Roadrunners logo was prominently displayed in the entrance lobby.

Clark argued UTSA should remove the slogan because it embodies both “anti-Mexican and pro-slavery sentiments.” She added that the phrase taken from the Battle of Gonzales in 1835 is “steeped in racist ideology and racist history.”

UTSA President Taylor Eighmy received plenty of support and criticism for removing the “Come and Take It” slogan from the athletics department.

Eighmy initially announced a task force would be created to explore current and future traditions at UTSA. He ultimately decided not to proceed with the task force, writing in his email that the “phrase has become increasingly affiliated with cultural and political issues beyond its traditional historical context.”

In the days after the decision, Eighmy received dozens of emails from alumni, faculty, students and staff.

KSAT obtained nearly 200 emails under public information law that were sent to Eighmy’s university email in response to his decision. KSAT submitted an open records request for the emails in the weeks following Eighmy’s decision, specifically asking for responses between Sept. 7 and Sept. 17.

Emails maintained by taxpayer funds and operated by employees of government are public information.

The UTSA Open Records department responded via email on Nov. 13 and asked the Texas Attorney General whether some of the emails could be redacted.

The AG’s office issued a ruling on Dec. 6 for UTSA to release “responsive documents” for the records request. However, the UTSA Open Records department did not release the final batch of emails to KSAT until Jan. 5, nearly four months after the initial request was made. UTSA redacted several names on emails.

While there were many emails that voiced support for the president’s decision, the majority said they were against removing “Come and Take It,” referring to the move as “cowardly” and surrendering to “cancel culture.”

Other emailers used explicit language and references to race and social justice initiatives in their email messages. Emailers ranged from UTSA donors, alumni, staff and bank executives.

Several emailers also wrote they would no longer financially support or donate to the university. Others said they would not renew their season tickets or attend any future games in the wake of the decision.

Below are some of the emails KSAT obtained for this story.

  • “F*** you and your kowtowing to some whiney liberal students, all for the sake of avoiding confrontation and hurt feelings. You are simply feeding a machine of group think that knows no bounds; a group of people who are always rallying for inclusivity while spitting their own vitriol at anyone who has a differing opinion. Where does the madness end? Do you stop playing the national anthem at games because it offends some portion of your student body? Never mind you probably already did.”
  • “President Taylor, I would also like the phrase “Black Lives Matter” to be removed from anything affiliated with the university. This phrase has become associated with domestic terror groups that like to burn down and vandalize cities.”
  • “I stopped contributing to UTSA when I learned the university is teaching black lives matter (capitalization purposely deleted) philosophy. It is abhorrent to me that my alma mater is teaching students to basically hate America. Now you’re taking away a tradition of the slogan and cannon. How woke is this university going to get? Do you realize that the university’s actions CONTRIBUTE to racism and divisiveness? This country has suffered so much. It’s too bad the university feels it has to be woke.”
  • “This decision is another cowardly surrender to cancel culture ignorance winning over education and courage. FREE SPEECH is one step closer death. Thanks to those in power bowing to the few ignorant who are offended about everything just to get attention and make those in power shack in fear for being who they are.”
  • “The racists won. Your decision does not reflect the views of San Antonio residents. Your Socialist Marxist agenda has won out. In the end you will lose”
  • “President Taylor Eighmy, I’ll never rejoin alumni association...so much for keeping your word about a task force... this is beyond ridiculous... but hey you get to be seen as woke and remain an Anglo leading a predominantly Hispanic serving Institution.”
  • “Will all due respect sir, this is disgusting. If you are going to remove this very Texas tradition then please remove TEXAS from the school name…Surely you realize this phrase is associated with our version of Lexington & Concord of the American Revolution? Or perhaps you believe in 1619 Project falsehoods? I can only assign this decision to ignorance or malice to all things Texas and Texan.”
  • “President Eighmy, Thank you for your email. I have been a season ticket holder since the inception of the UTSA football team. With your email today I will not be renewing my 4 season tickets, purchasing any additional tickets or attending any future games.”
  • “You have lost me as a donor. This cancel culture is out of hand. Good luck trying to wipe out all of our history and give in to the woke culture.”
  • “Dear President Eighmy, I will never donate to organizations or their affiliates that cower to liberalism and their anti-American agenda. This includes my beloved U.T.S.A.”

Eighmy did have support among some UTSA supporters, faculty and former university employees.

  • “Taylor, thank you for having the strength and wisdom to bring the “Come and Take It” issue to a swift and appropriate conclusion. In my humble opinion, the longer the issue dragged out the more damage it would bring to the athletic program and UTSA in general.”
  • “Difficult but smart leadership decision. Thank you for listening and for your commitment to serve our Hispanic community.”
  • “Thank you so much!! That phrase is sickening.”
  • “President Eighmy, thank you for making the right choice in this matter. I am a Native Texan, and until recently, never considered that phrase through the lens of those who might have been negatively impacted. The fact that it has taken on broader political context among those who want to divide us, adds even further negativity to it. We are all in this together, and I agree that we need to reduce our divisiveness whenever we have the opportunity. Go RoadRunners!”
  • “Dear President Eighmy, congratulations on this courageous and truly respectful decision!! I am so proud to know that you are willing to take a stand and remove this tradition before it becomes too ingrained in UTSA history. It is the right thing to do, given it’s association with radical and even insurrectionist groups.”
  • “My family totally agree with your decision. The 4 of us are season ticket holders since day one. We Love UTSA athletics and everything about UTSA academics. Keep up the good work!!”

Eighmy also faced criticism from the UT System’s Board of Regents. Chair Kevin Eltife, a former Republican state Senator, blasted Eighmy over the decision, writing on Sept. 8 that he was very disappointed with the decision.

“The Board of Regents does not support abandoning traditions and history that mean much to students, alumni, and other Texans. I am very disappointed with this decision and will immediately ask our Board to establish policies that ensure that the governing body of the UT System will have the opportunity in the future to be consulted before important university traditions and observances are changed.”

Eighmy did not publicly comment on the board’s criticism, but said in statement to the Texas Tribune that he appreciated the board’s perspective and looked “forward to working together to advance education, research and service for the public good.”

While controversial at the time, the backlash over the decision to remove the phrase ultimately did not distract the UTSA football team on the field.

The Roadrunners finished the regular season 12-1 and won the university’s first conference title in football. Attendance grew at UTSA home games culminating with more than 41,000 fans at the Alamodome for the conference championship game in early December, the third-largest crowd in program history at the Alamodome.

About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.