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Religious symbolism in U.S. sports team names and mascots

The following is a list of American sports team names and mascots that are based upon or use religious symbolism. Because of the prevalence of Christian groups and institutions throughout the history of the United States, many of these symbols can be assumed to have come from Christian sources. However, teams deriving their image from symbols belonging to other systems of religious and pseudo-religious beliefs have also been included.

Sports clubs and teams select their image or mascot based on any number of factors, including choosing an image based on a desire to pick a symbol that will attempt to convey the assets the clubs and teams aim to display, such as strength, courage, aggression, and endurance. Scholars have drawn connections between desires such as these and the religious totems found in polytheism, where visual representations of animals serve as symbols to express the physical and spiritual qualities of community. Adoration of a mascot by a school or company can be seen as religiously significant. However, economic factors also come into play, as both schools and sports-franchise owners want to make money. Just as an appealing, marketable symbol can generate vast revenue, so can profits suffer if a potentially offensive symbol alienates some potential fans. This consideration as well can explain why sectarian religious symbols rarely appear in sports-team names and mascots.

Most of the teams listed here belong to schools and not to professional franchises. The reasons for this are subject to debate. In schools administrators, teachers, and parents act as a community to give students education in local values, and in many places these values come from religious institutions like churches and synagogues. So schools often become de facto representatives of a community's religious ideals as well as visual representatives of that community at a state, national, and international level. These conditions combine to make school sports a place for religious symbols, after they get filtered through the secular values both of the nation at large and of sport itself. This filtering produces mixed-value mascots like "Demon Deacons" of Wake Forest University and the "Hustlin' Quakers" (formerly "Fightin' Quakers", subsequently simply "Quakers") of Earlham College.

  • The Saints drum corp, sponsored by Our Lady of Peace Church in Fords, N.J. Their original hats had a cross in the center of the medallion, and the Saints logo is the intersection of a halo and a cross. They disbanded in 1987.
  • The Knights Drum and Bugle Corp in Kewanee, Illinois (discontinued in 1998).
  • Black Knights Drum Corps of Burbank, California (discontinued in 2001).
  • Rochester Crusaders Drum Corp of Rochester, New York.
  • Boston Crusaders Drum & Bugle Corps, founded in 1932, is the second-oldest junior drum and bugle corps in the nation and a founding member of Drum Corps International.
  • California Crusaders Drum Corp in Carson, California (discontinued in 1979)
  • Conquistadors Drum Corp from Southern San Francisco, CA
  • Emerald Knights Drum Corp of Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Christian Academy of Louisville Centurions (KY). Most likely inspired by Cornelius the Centurion, traditionally held to be the first Gentile convert to Christianity.
  • Christian Life Academy Crusaders (Baton Rouge)
  • Episcopal School Knights (Baton Rouge)
  • Lincoln Christian School Crusaders (GA)
  • Southside Christian School Sabres (SC)
  • Christ Church Episcopal School Cavaliers (SC)
  • Shannon Forest Christian School Crusaders (SC)
  • Franklin Central School Purple Devils (NY)
  • Wellington High School Crusaders (KS)
  • Arizona State University Sun Devils, mascot Sparky the Sun Devil
  • Dickinson College Red Devils
  • Duke Blue Devils
  • Eureka College Red Devils
  • Farleigh Dickinson University (Metropolitan Campus) Knights
  • Farleigh Dickinson College at Florham Devils
  • Furman University Paladians (SC)
  • Northwestern State University of Louisiana Demons, mascot Vic the Demon
  • Old Dominion University Monarchs
  • Rutgers University at New Brunswick Scarlet Knights
  • UCF Knights
  • United States Military Academy Black Knights


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