UVA AD Williams issues apology to fanbase for mistake on new V-Sabres logo

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Carla Williams

Let’s give credit to Carla Williams for righting a wrong, an unknowingly wrong.

When Virginia unveiled a bunch of new logos a couple of months ago, the majority of them were widely criticized and rejected by its fan base. I’m guessing new fan gear adorned with the logos has not exactly been flying off the shelves at Mincer’s or the UVA Bookstore.

Fans found fault with most everything, from a logo that featured a Cavalier with its head bowed, to accents of Carolina blue incorporated into some of the sketches (an unforgivable sin everywhere in the ACC outside of Chapel Hill), to the most egregious error: serpentine curves on the handles of UVA’s sabres.

While I haven’t talked to Williams, UVA’s athletic director, about this, and while I suspect that Nike was most responsible for all the new stuff for rebranding purposes (I’ll get to that in a moment), she did the right thing on Monday when the athletic department released an apology to its fans, particularly for the racial undertones of the sabre handles.

“After the release of our new logos on April 24th, I was made aware of the negative connotation between the serpentine walls and slavery,” Williams said. “I was not previously aware of the historical perspective indicating the original eight-foot-high walls were constructed to mask the institution of slavery and enslaved laborers from public view.

“Over the past few weeks, I have worked to better educate myself and that education will continue.

“There was no intent to cause harm, but we did, and for that I apologize to those who bear the pain of slavery in our history. As such, we have redesigned the logos to remove that detail. All other aspects of the logos will remain the same.”

As pointed out in the release, those original serpentine walls from the 1820s were removed, and the current walls were constructed in the 1950s with a wider berth and shorter in height.

Williams shouldn’t be criticized for her lack of knowledge about the original serpentine walls. I know many UVA graduates, some of which are extremely sensitive to matters of race, who weren’t aware of the history of those walls either. Williams has only been onboard a couple of years after coming to Charlottesville from the University of Georgia. She has done a good job of investing time to learn about UVA’s history and traditions, but was totally unaware of the mistake made by designers of the new logos.

Wahoo fans may not like the new logos, and I can’t say that I blame them, but certainly there was no intent to cause any harm.

My biggest question throughout this entire process was why UVA felt it necessary to rebrand after winning national championships in men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse, while the football team played in the ACC Championship game and the Orange Bowl.

Seems to me, Virginia’s brand was pretty darn good with all the success.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve passed by strangers wearing Virginia caps with the V Sabres logo, while walking through airports, shopping malls, etc., throughout the country. Just to strike up a conversation, I’d say “Wahoowa,” and many times those folks would look at me like I had three heads.

I had to explain myself to them, and they’d grin and say, “Oh, no, I didn’t go to Virginia, I just love the hat.”

Ringing endorsements from sports fans who liked the look, originally designed by George Welsh’s son, Matt, who if memory serves didn’t get paid a nickel for producing the best logo in UVA history.

Again, I don’t really know, but guessing that Nike had a lot to do with the whole thing, pushing a bunch of new logos for merchandise, etc., as it tends to do. This time, its designers clearly didn’t have a good pulse on UVA’s fan base and didn’t do its homework.

If you like the logos, great. Should be plenty of merchandise to purchase. My guess is that most of the new stuff isn’t going to sell that well.

Just give Carla Williams a pass on this one. There’s no way she would intentionally cause harm in such a manner. 

UVA’s release noted that changes have been made to repair the damage and is in the process of replacing the logos with new versions that return to straight-line handles on the sabres. Fans who bought the previous versions of the new logos between April 24 and June 14 and would like to exchange them for the new stuff are asked to email the athletics department at: athleticsmarketing@virginia.edu.



    CARLA WILLIAMS is a Class Act and a lovely lady.

  2. Jim Andrews says:

    Where can I find the “new” logos? I have not seen them or been able to see them. I am a fan of Matt’s design and cannot imagine someone screwing with it. If you can help me, Jerry, I would appreciate it.

    • Jerry Ratcliffe says:

      I believe the new logos were featured in a previous story we did on this site. Check our archives.

  3. sd says:

    Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) incorporated serpentine walls into the architecture of the University of Virginia, which he founded. Flanking both sides of its landmark rotunda and extending down the length of the lawn are ten pavilions, each with its own walled garden separated by crinkle crankle walls. Although some authorities claim that Jefferson invented this design, he was merely adapting a well-established English style of construction. A university document in his own hand shows how he calculated the savings and combined aesthetics with utility.[10]

  4. Steve says:

    Let’s be clear. Based on all I’ve read, CW apologized for the serpentine handles only, not for messing up the logo with the “faceting” nor for the hideous secondary logos.

    • Frank says:

      Agreed. A little misleading on the article’s title. Carla only apologized for any possible racist connotations, not for the horrible new designs or, even worse, the thinking that went into changing what was already a great logo. I can easily guess what it was.

  5. Chip williams says:

    Can we end our contract with Nike? The company is too political for my liking. Sports and politics don’t mix. Nix Nike

  6. Ann Rumble says:

    Do you naysayers really think Carla Williams is solely responsible for the re-brand? That’s ridiculous. The changes were approved by and the responsibility of the University.

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