Hold the Tortillas: A&M-Kingsville Tosses Football Tradition

Texas A&M University-Kingsville has become the latest institution to clamp down on tortilla tossing.

"Over the course of the past year, I wrestled with a difficult issue related to the spirit of the institution," President Steven Tallent explained in a recent statement banning the practice at football games.

Tallent called the practice dangerous, wasteful and potentially offensive.

"Many people, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic...consider it a racist gesture," Tallent wrote. "We need to be sensitive to those who are offended by throwing tortillas."

Nobody knows who started the tortilla tradition, although a report in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times claims tortillas have been flying for decades. Other universities, including the University of California-Santa Barbara and Texas Tech, have flirted with tortilla tossing, but abandoned the practice when officials threatened to penalize the home team.

At the University of Arizona, students fling tortillas at graduation, a ritual that infuriated former President Peter Likins. According to The New York Times, Likins -- who was once hit in the face by a tortilla -- "campaigned vehemently" against tortilla tosses, ordering robe searches and threatening to cancel commencement ceremonies if the practice persisted.

Likins had the backing of local Mexican-American activists, who argued students were demeaning their culture by turning tortillas into projectiles.

Tallent stressed safety concerns in his decision: While fresh tortillas are soft as confetti, spectators have been hurt by fried, frozen and stuffed tortillas. The Caller-Times recounts the story of a 5-year old boy who was plunked in the nose by a rock-hard tortilla.

If Javelina fans do settle on another, less dangerous foodstuff for flinging, it won't be the first time a food-throwing tradition's evolved for safety reasons. In Mobile, the birthplace of Mardi Gras, revelers threw Cracker Jack until 1972, when the city banned the sharp-edged boxes. The city's now so firmly associated with the Moon Pies that replaced them that it hoists a giant Moon Pie every New Year's Eve.

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