FORT SMITH (KFSM)- The Southside High School Rebel mascot and “Dixie” fight song will be changed by the 2016-2017 school year, and the students and employees are not the only ones feeling the impact.
Local businesses are also responding to the Fort Smith School Board's unanimous vote Monday (July 27) to change Johnny Reb to a different mascot.
The mascot is one of the first things customers see when they walk into Razorback Pizza in Fort Smith.
"It is a very controversial subject right now,” manager Tori Parker said. “My owner has informed me that we do plan on leaving the Rebel mascot up out of respect for the people that wish for it to be left up.”
Kelcey Thompson supports the board's decision.
"I am very emotional and overwhelmed. I could cry,” Thompson said. “I am excited that the community understands and the board understands and embraces the fact that change is needed in our community."
Fans can still find Rebel merchandise at Sports Graphics.
“Some of the ones we have for sale today are Southside Confederates volleyball shirts,” Kim Collins, who works at the shop, said.
Collins said Southside merchandise has become a hot item after the board's vote.
“We have had several people come in to the store so far once the vote got put through the first time to look for the merchandise before it goes away,” Collins said.
Collins said they supply 200 to 300 items for the school, but a new mascot could also mean more business.
“[There are] so many different sports at Southside," she said. "From football to Dixie Bells to volleyball, softball, so I mean it could be a good impact.”
The school board said their decision is final, but they are facing a lawsuit over their initial vote. Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen said the board violated the Freedom of Information Act when a committee voted to ban the mascot and song back in June.
A judge has set a hearing for the lawsuit for Wednesday (July 29) at 2:30 p.m.