Where is the panther?


Hailey Robarge

Breaking news! A report has just come in of a missing person case: the West Ottawa panther has gone missing! This panther holds great significance to all of West Ottawa; it is the beloved mascot and holds many pieces in the school’s history.

Multiple West Ottawa students have failed to track down the panther around school and are deeply saddened by the disappearance. Even on West Ottawa’s website, the panther is nowhere to be found.

Where could the panther have disappeared to?

In recent years, not only has the gym floor been redone, most of the athletic programs have received new Under Armor uniforms. Along with the new uniforms, the panther has practically vanished from the athletic side of the school. Searching through the WOZone for the panther was a fail; it was nowhere to be found.

The panther has played a big role in WO’s history. “I was the panther mascot three different years at basketball games and special events. ‘Once a panther, always a panther.’ When I think of West Ottawa, I think of being a panther. I truly believe that the panther is the heart of our school and not just the words WO,” West Ottawa Alumni Aspen Avery said.

The panther has left traces on the walls and outside in the north courtyard.  Maybe the panther hasn’t completely disappeared, maybe it just wanted to go into hiding for a short period of time.

Broadly, the absence of the panther can be explained.

“As someone who worked in sales and marketing for multiple professional sports franchises, I wanted to bring some consistency to our looks,” West Ottawa Athletic Director Bill Kennedy said.

“While doing some research for the interview process, one thing that stood out was the lack of a consistent brand for the athletic program. Brands are typically built through consistency in logo, font, and color use. This became a focus for me, which is when we signed the deal with Under Armour and began to focus our efforts on using the WO logo as our primary mark.”

“In my opinion, when you see [the WO logo], everyone in the community and the surrounding community should know what that symbol means and tie it back into the school,” Assistant Principal Ryan Oshnock said.

In a yearbook from 2015, the West Ottawa football team had a specific panther on their helmet that matched an NFL team. “Three years ago West Ottawa was contacted by the Carolina Panthers lawyers and were instructed that we could no longer use their version of the logo. If the logo remained on uniforms we would be fine, but we would not be able to sell anything with that logo. We obviously moved quickly to eliminate that version of the logo that at this time only remains on a few uniforms such as cheer and boys cross country warmups,” Kennedy said.

The panther has not entirely disappeared. “We do continue to use the original panther logo, (think panthers along Main St) for some items and as accent logos for uniforms,” Kennedy said. “We do still use the panther as a secondary logo on a number of items. From boys basketball uniforms to team tents; the panther is alive and well,” Kennedy said.

The panther will be part of our future, too.  Kennedy said, “There is a panther planned for the new facility that will be similar to the one in the courtyard at the North HS. Lots of opportunities for classes to leave class gifts in the coming years for the new facilities, I would love to see more panthers around. There are also some other panther related items planned for the facility as well.” 

Kennedy believes the standard WO will come to honorably represent our school. “Think of the University of Michigan and the ‘Block M’. When someone sees it, they immediately know what institution that refers to. Michigan’s mascot is the Wolverine, but you rarely see any picture of an actual Wolverine and this is for branding purposes. I think sometimes with the panther logo pictures, it gets hard to keep the same logo over and over, for whatever reason.” 

The panther is not gone, but it is a bit diminished.