Massillon Washington High School has a special place in football lore. The Northeast Ohio school was the coaching breeding ground of one Paul Brown, who in many ways is the closest thing football has to a James Naismith figure. Brown coached the Massillon Tigers before coaching both the Browns and Bengals, who still use his name for their stadium.
Massillon Washington High plays at its own Paul Brown Stadium, but there’s nothing controversial about that, creepy scoreboard specter or not. Instead, it’s the team’s use of a live tiger as team mascot that has activists up in arms … again.
Let’s be perfectly clear: This is not the first time that some have cried foul over Massillon’s live tiger mascot, named Obie. The school has used caged tigers for more than 40 years, bringing in a new cub each year, and he is almost universally beloved by local citizens.
That’s not the case for animal activists, who argue that the school’s practice of bringing in a new Obie each year is nothing short of “barbaric.”
As reported by Cleveland Fox affiliate WJW, here’s what California animal rights activist Amanda Whelan wrote in an online petition aimed at forcing Massillon to give up the Obie tradition, which she hopes will gain 20,000 signatures.
“It is my belief that the Massillon Washington High School Boosters have done little to nothing to care for a reputed four decades of traumatized cubs.
“This barbaric yearly cub purchase is not about “school pride;” it is a cruel practice and must be stopped. Massillon Washington High’s actions allow one of the rarest mammals on earth to be at the mercy of the grossly unregulated US exotic pet trade and the inadequacy of the Ohio state government to consistently enforce their fledgling exotic pet laws.”
Whelan’s petition currently has more than 5,000 signatures, with a goal of earning 20,000. Still, there’s no guarantee that 20,000 signatures will precipitate any change at a place so steeped in tradition as Massillon, particularly when many of the signatures aren’t from residents of the United States, let alone Ohioans.
Mandy Pond, the archivist at the Massillon Museum told WJW.
“He’s very loved and upon retirement when the year is up they do go to zoos and various places, specifically Stump Hill Farm here in Massillon and I have visited the grounds and he’s well cared for and loved,” said Pond.