Head coach Ken Niumatalolo said it took “about one minute” for his captains to change the Navy football team motto after questions were raised about its appropriateness.
The Capital reported Thursday that "Load the Clip” was chosen by Navy’s four captains as the slogan for the 2019 season. The next day, a reporter from the news organization asked academy officials about it.
When the question made it to Niumatalolo, he said he convened a meeting with captains Ford Higgins, Malcolm Perry, Paul Carothers and Nizaire Cromartie. It was announced on Friday afternoon that Navy football’s new motto for the 2019 season was “Win the Day.”
“It was a one-minute meeting. I explained that some people had deemed the motto to be insensitive. Our captains didn’t need to hear another word. They immediately said ‘Coach, let’s just change it.'...,” Niumatalolo said Saturday during Navy’s Football Media Day and Fan Fest.
“We sincerely apologize if it upset anyone, but it was not meant to be taken the way it may have been by some... We understand that it probably wasn’t appropriate considering the current climate and certain things that are happening in our society.”
Niumatalolo’s comments and those by his team captains came just hours before a mass shooting took place in El Paso, claiming what news reports Saturday night said were 23 lives.
For Carothers, gun violence is personal. He was a plebe at the academy when his father was slain while leading his team of officers into a rural Georgia mobile home to arrest a fugitive.
Patrick Carothers, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Marshals Service, died Nov.18, 2016.
Carothers said he understands why those affected by the Capital Gazette shooting and others across the nation might take offense to a college football team motto of “Load the Clip.”
Navy Football Coach Ken Niumatalolo speaks to the media about the coming 2019 season.
“I completely empathize with anyone who has lost a family member or close friend to any type of gun violence. I personally know exactly how they feel,” Carothers said. “Because of my experience, I know first-hand how badly it hurts to lose someone you love in that way.”
Carothers said he is still trying to reconcile that his father was murdered while doing his job, however dangerous it may have been.
“When my dad was shot, I struggled to understand that whole situation and why it happened. It is so incredibly sad and we have mourned his loss every day since,” he said. “I think my mom has done a wonderful job of showing love and forgiveness in the wake of what happened to my dad.”
On June 28, 2018, a man with a shotgun entered the Capital Gazette newsroom and killed five employees: Gerald Fischman, John McNamara, Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters and Rebecca Smith.
During an interview at American Athletic Conference Football Media Day in mid-July, Higgins said “Load the Clip” was designed to carry symbolism that speaks to the work ethic required to succeed on Saturdays.
Higgins acknowledged Saturday that it did not come off well when it became public in Annapolis.
“We don’t want to be insensitive to anyone and that certainly was not our intent when it came to the motto,” Higgins said. “Coach Niumatalolo addressed the situation very well. We’re excited about the new motto ‘Win the Day.’ It captures the same purpose and meaning. We’re going to put this behind and move on.”
Niumatalolo and the four captains were made aware of outside concerns after a reporter from The Capital contacted the Naval Academy superintendent’s office seeking comment about the football team motto.
What happened inside the former Capital Gazette newsroom at 888 Bestgate Road was part of an epidemic of gun violence across the United States. Higgins said he felt remorseful that Navy’s captains did not take that into consideration.
But he said the slogan is not nearly as important as the philosophy behind it. Nothing has changed about the underlying theme for the 2019 Navy football season, which is that players must put forth maximum effort in their daily preparation if the Midshipmen hope to post a winning record.
“At the end of the day, a motto is just words and what really matters is what we do on the field,” Higgins said.
In practical terms, changing the Navy football team motto was as simple as declaring it will now be “Win the Day.” The original slogan had not been printed on t-shirts or given any other type of visible presence yet, sources said.
“In the end, it’s just words on the back of a t-shirt,” Carothers said. “What we’ve done during the offseason to get ready and what we do on the field every day — our actions —are what truly portray how we approach this season.”