UH athletic director gets heat from supporters over nickname change

UH Athletic Director Ben Jay
UH Athletic Director Ben Jay

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University of Hawaii Athletic Director Ben Jay is caught in the line of fire over his decision to change the nickname of the UH athletic teams.

The latest shots aimed his way are in a scathing two-page letter from the UH Manoa Letterwinners Club.

In it, the Board of Directors write that Jay’s “…hasty decision has caused considerable divisions among the supporters of UH Athletics.”

The board says Jay has refused to meet with them to discuss the issue and closes this letter saying it cannot support the AD’s decision to cast aside decades of athletic history.

State Rep. Mark Takai, a former UH swimmer and president of the UH Manoa Letterwinners Club Board of Directors, says he and other board members met with Ben Jay in January, who shared the idea of dropping the Rainbows nickname from all men’s teams and replacing it with “warriors.”

“There was no agreement, in fact, there was a lot of confusion and the request was take some time, take a look at it and he assured us that this was not a process that was going to happen overnight,” Rep. Takai said.

Two weeks later, Jay made it official saying consistency for marketing and branding was the driving force behind his decision.

Takai says the decision has divided the community and the board has reached out to Jay on a number of occasions.

“He has for the last two months refused to talk to us specifically about this issue, that is troubling,” Rep. Takai said.

That triggered the letter.

“The request to the athletic director is to reconsider his decision temporarily give it some time, go meet with all the booster clubs, go meet with advocates, and supporter of UH athletes and let’s start to have this conversation,” Rep. Takai said.

Jay is in Arizona and declined to comment on the letter. He did, however, refer KHON2 to a letter he wrote to UH fan Stephen Chinen, a vocal advocate to keep the Rainbow nickname alive.

In the letter Jay said, “Based on numerous conversations with UH fans, I did not hear a consensus on what the men’s nickname should be but individuals were clearly in agreement that a decision had to be made and was long overdue.”

“Whatever he believes is what he believes, but I think what is important to note is that people outside are receiving it much differently,” Rep. Takai said.

KHON2 caught up with Gov. Neil Abercrombie to hear his thoughts.

“The Rainbows Warriors. That’s what it’s always been for me, for me. It’s ‘Go Bows,'” Gov. Abercrombie said.

“We want to help our programs grow, but when you have a leader that doesn’t want to meet with us because of a decision that we feel is not in the best interest of our history and our programs, then we’re challenged a little bit,” Rep. Takai said.

Click HERE to view the letter from the UH Manoa Letterwinners Club

Click HERE to view the letter from UH Athletic Director Ben Jay

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