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Many Nyack Residents Want New Team Name. But What To Choose?

by Maddie McCann

After 17 years, the Nyack Schools’ mascot debate has resurfaced with new vigor. Following a deluge of messages from concerned community members, the Nyack School Board hosted a Zoom meeting earlier this week to provide a public forum about whether or not the schools’ mascot, “The Nyack Indians,” should be changed. Multiple sports teams that previously employed Native American mascots have decided to move away from the names in light of the country’s recent efforts to denounce systemic racism, and Nyack’s could be next. 

Petitions have been signed, emails have been sent, Facebook arguments have been had, and the debate has quickly grown tense. The decision, though, is ultimately up to the Nyack School Board. Should the board decide to move forward with changing the mascot, Board President Michael Mark says that “There will be a process going forward to engage the community in creating a replacement.” The community, however, has already been engaging each other. 

Several ideas have been circulating, and some have even gained traction. The idea that appears to have garnered the most support to date is the “Nyack Nighthawks,” a reference to the famous Edward Hopper painting. Joseph Rand has even purchased the domain, nyacknighthawks.com, and created a website to advocate for the name. He hopes to be able to transfer it over—along with the “Nighthawks” Instagram and Twitter handles he’s reserved—to the school district in the future, free of charge. 

Thomas Perry, who has taught science at Nyack High School for the last 30 years and has long been championing for a mascot change, says the Nighthawks would be his first choice. He likes the association with the iconic American artist Edward Hopper, an NHS graduate, class of 1899—Hopper’s most famous work is entitled “Nighthawks.” Also, he adds, it “has a very nice sound to it.” 

Curious about other options, I took to a group chat with my high school friends for a brainstorm sesh. Most proposals, though locally grounded, were less pride-inspiring (and far less serious). NHS alum Sebastian Jakymiw threw out the first pitch: “Captain Hook,” as in Hook Mountain. However, he soured on the idea after remembering that Pearl River athletics go by the Pirates—too close. 

NHS alum Alex Katavolos then offered “The Nyack River Rats.” When asked to elaborate, he bolstered his claim by asserting that he’s “definitely seen rats by the river,” and pointed out that the name has alliteration: “Two big pluses.” But just as the River Rats were gaining traction, NHS alum Matt Hackel came to the table with the winner. In the spirit of renaming things, he proposed: “The Nyack Mario M. Cuomo Bridges.” Unable to be topped, the conversation was then put to bed. 

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But as that conversation sleeps, others just like it continue. Other names that have been circulating include “The Nyack Knickerbockers” (a reference to early industry in the village) and “The Nyack Yacks” (a play on the village’s nickname, Yacktown). 

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If the time comes for the mascot to be changed, there will surely be a considerate approach implemented to make sure the community is satisfied. Leah Brand, the Nyack High School alumnus who created the petition to change the mascot, foresees a lot of conversation about potential replacements in Nyack’s future, and hopes that if the Board chooses to change it, current students’ ideas will be prioritized. As for her take, she’s open to different possibilities, with one condition: “If it’s not racist, I’ll be happy.”

Maddie McCann attended Nyack High School and is a graduate of Colorado College. 

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Nyack People & Places, a weekly series that features photos and profiles of citizens and scenes near Nyack, NY, is sponsored by Sun River Health.


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