American Bicycle Group is dropping the "Ocoee" name for one of its most popular bike lines to avoid any unknowing connotation by the brand of racial inequality because of the 1920 lynching of an African American in Ocoee, Florida.
The Chattanooga-based bike maker said Friday it is exploring a new name for its mountain bikes to replace Ocoee, which had been named after the nearby Ocoee River in Polk County where mountain biking is popular.
Peter Hurley, president and CEO of the American Bicycle Group, said he was made aware this week that the name "Ocoee" is also associated with the Election Day lynching of a Black man and the burning of an African American community in Ocoee, Florida in 1920. On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new law requiring that Florida education include events like the election day riots, and other lynchings and acts of racial violence that are currently not part of regular African American curriculum.
"All of our brands are about providing equal access to everyone, in sports and in life," Hurley said in a statement Friday. "In originally naming the bike "Ocoee," our focus was on enjoying and exploring the outdoors and adventure. We had no understanding or knowledge of any other potential meaning or historical reference to the word. Now that we are aware of what Ocoee can also mean, it will be changed."
The brand name change by the American Bicycle Group is among several re-branding or name changes being made this month by companies, bands and others in response to the ongoing protests for racial justice spurred by the police killing last month of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Quaker Oats announced last week it is retiring its Aunt Jemima brand of syrup after 131 years due to racial stereotypes associated with the name. Mars said it plans to change its Uncle Ben's brand and Conagra is planning a "complete brand and packaging review" of its Mrs. Butterworth's syrup over concerns about racial profiling and stereotypes.
The Grammy-winning country group The Dixie Chicks also announced on Wednesday they have dropped the word Dixie from their name, now going by The Chicks, in deference to concerns over the Dixie name being associated with the Confederacy and its support of slavery in the 19th century.
Hurley said American Bicycle Group is in the process of exploring a new name for the Ocoee mountain bike, including researching the historical background of potential names and doing a legal check of previous name registrations. The company said customers who currently own an Ocoee bike will be notified at a later date of the plan to switch out decals at no-cost. Bikes that are currently in production will include decals with the new name.
American Bicycle Group makes high-performance bikes under three brands — Quintana Roo (QR) triathlon bikes; Ocoee (name change coming) carbon gravel and mountain bikes; and Litespeed (LS) titanium road, gravel and mountain bikes – as well as the HYDRO series of wetsuits and swimskins under the QR brand.
"Our entire team supports racial equality and stands ready to create a new name that reflects our beliefs," Hurley said.