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Shorewood/Messmer unveils new football logo

Messwood Head Coach Drake Zortman (left) holds up the new logo alongside Messwood running-back Donovan Freeman at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. NOW photo by Michael Meidenbauer.

Messwood Head Coach Drake Zortman (left) holds up the new logo alongside Messwood running-back Donovan Freeman at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. NOW photo by Michael Meidenbauer.

Oct. 10, 2012

Updated with new Messwood logo and comments from Wednesday afternoon press conference.

Shorewood - The Messwood football team has a new logo, less than 24 hours after the Shorewood School Board decided to remove the cross from the design the team has sported all season because of a possible conflict over the separation of church and state.

The new logo, the words "2012 PLAYOFFS" in red set on a blue football, is meant to represent the accomplishments of the two schools, district and team officials told reporters this afternoon.

"Our new helmet logo is going to celebrate the successes these young men have worked so hard for this season," said Messwood Head Coach Drake Zortman.

The new logo will be on Messwood's helmets during its home game this Friday, said Zortman, though staff weren't able to take the decals with the old logo off in time for a freshmen make-up game tonight.  

Messmer President Bob Smith said that, although he would have preferred the cross to remain on the logo, and would like some indication of God in future logos, he understands the limitations of partnering with a public entity like Shorewood.

"Part of the co-op was knowing that we were co-oping with a public school district which has its own guidelines" said Smith. "You won't see me on the battle line trying to change something that is, institutionally, probably not going to change."

Shorewood High School Principal Matthew Joynt said a combination of Shorewood and Messmer students will design a new logo for the team in 2013, though criteria for the redesign haven't been established. 

"That'll probably be a second semester issue," said Joynt. "For now we've got our answer for the rest of the season."

Original story below:

A resounding, unanimous "yes" came from the School Board Tuesday night almost the instant Superintendent Martin Lexmond asked if the cross should be removed from the Messwood football team logo. The team is composed of students from Shorewood and Messmer high schools.

"It's clearly a Christian cross," board member Michael Mishlove said. "I think it's inappropriate to have on a uniform or any sort of school-authorized clothing, as I think it could be viewed as an endorsement."

The logo, designed by a Shorewood sophomore last school year, was the result of a graphic arts class project meant to unify the two schools' mascots. In Shorewood's case, a greyhound; in Messmer's, a bishop. Messwood coach Drake Zortman vetted 20 designs with administrators at both schools before the logo was added to the Messwood uniform helmet this season.

"It never really occurred to anybody that this was crossing the separation (of church and state) line," Lexmond said.

A Shorewood district parent sent an email to the School Board and administration in early October, warning them of the potential church and state conflict, and prompting the board's decision to remove the cross.

Br. Bob Smith, who runs Messmer Catholic Schools, told 620WTMJ that he was 'not happy' about the crosses coming off.

Removed before next game

With the decision made, it's up to Shorewood High School Principal Matthew Joynt to either conceal the cross for the remainder of the team's games or remove the logo entirely without, as he put it, "bringing drama."

"I don't want to make it (the athletes') focus," Joynt said, "because it's not their issue."

He added that the helmet logos are decals and could be removed easily enough, though board and audience members suggested taping or painting over the cross for the time being.

"At the next game there should be no evidence of a religious symbol on the helmet," board member David Cobb said.

The issue of religious symbolism and publicly funded entities is not new to southeastern Wisconsin. The city of Wauwatosa was forced to remove a cross from its city seal in 1992 after being threatened with litigation by atheists, and the Elmbrook School District is currently dealing with a lawsuit for holding its high school graduations in Elmbrook Church where a large cross was visible during the ceremonies.

Joynt told the board that he will likely send the logo creation back to graphic design students, but wanted direction from the board in terms of including the Messmer bishop mascot.

Back to the drawing board

"Based on what we're discussing tonight, what are the parameters?" Joynt asked the board. "Messmer is a Catholic school, and outside of using an 'M' for Messmer, what is allowed?"

"The guidance that ought to be given to them should be to stay away any symbol that is readily identifiable as a sectarian religious symbol," said Mishlove, adding that he would like to see an analysis of the two schools' financial contributions to the program and the possible effects on any first amendment restrictions.

Board President Rob Reinhoffer said that some good could come of a redesign with stricter guidelines.

"I would like it to be a learning experience for the kids," Reinhoffer said. "If they go into a career like this, they're going to have design constraints, and it would be great if they could do this with some constraints about separation of church and state."

Lexmond said Messmer President Bob Smith told him a logo redesign wouldn't be an issue when they spoke at the Messwood homecoming game last week.

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