In the aftermath of the mass shooting June 17 in Charleston, S.C., the Confederate flag became a lightning rod for discussion because images surfaced of the alleged shooter posing with the Civil War relic.
Other phrases and items with Confederate connotations have been subject to debate as well.
Senator Harry Reid, D-Nev., thrust the word "Rebels" into the spotlight Tuesday when he said the Nevada Board of Regents should reconsider the "Runnin' Rebels" nickname at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Seven high schools in Kentucky — Allen Central, Atherton, Boone County, Boyle County, Casey County, Owen County and Todd County Central — use Rebels as their athletics mascot.
Never miss a local story.
Of those, five use a white, soldier-type character in their official athletics logo registered with the KHSAA. Atherton and Boyle County use a stylized "A" and "B," respectively.
While some of the schools faced controversies involving the Confederate flag in the past, none of those with whom the Herald-Leader spoke have fielded concerns over the use of Rebels.
"The Confederate flag was an issue (at Allen Central) before I was superintendent ... as far as the Rebel name itself, that's never been a point of any issue," Floyd County Superintendent Henry Webb said.
In January 2007, Allen Central agreed to remove a display of the Confederate flag in its basketball gymnasium after David School coach Ned Pillersdorf attempted to boycott a game. The contest was still postponed.
Pillersdorf argued that the display was a form of taunting against his lone black player and that the season before Allen Central fans waved Confederate flags from the stands at a black player shooting free throws. However, the official scorebook from the game in question showed that the player did not take a free throw.
As recently as Thursday morning, Confederate flag imagery was still found in the school's logo listed with the KHSAA. That logo has since been replaced with an updated version sans the flag imagery.
In a photo that was on the school's website until Friday morning, what appears to be a Confederate flag printed with the school's mascot was presented as part of a pregame flag ceremony alongside the United States flag.
In light of recent incidents, Webb said, "I've asked the school to stop all use of that. So all of that will be gone. ... Going forward we may have conversations about the actual Rebels mascot but at this point we have not."
The Rebels discussion at Allen Central may be moot; it and South Floyd are scheduled to be consolidated by fall 2017.
On Wednesday, Boone County was the subject of a story written by comedian Akilah Hughes titled "I'm black, and I just went to a reunion at my Confederate-flag loving high school." She recounted visiting the school for her 10-year reunion last weekend.
"But most striking to me now? All of the pep rallies and football games attended, at which black students and athletes had to cheer for Mr. Rebel while wearing shirts that read 'Rebel Pride,'" Hughes wrote.
In the piece, posted to Fusion.net, Hughes used images — two from the '70s and one from 1993 — that showed the Confederate flag being used by cheering fans and as part of the school's basketball floor. The imagery has since been removed from the court and such flags banned from sporting events.
"What she doesn't seem to understand is things have completely changed and we're very sensitive," Boone County community relations spokesperson Barbara Brady said. "We have people speaking 52 different languages going to Boone County schools. We have people of numerous races and ethnicities going to Boone County schools.
"There cannot be anything in anything we do — our curriculum, our presentation and the way we represent ourselves — that can be offensive to anybody of any skin color, of any race, of any ethnicity, of any sexuality. We are completely neutral and inclusive of anything and everything."
Brady stressed that the Rebels mascot — which Hughes described on Twitter as a Confederate general — had no connection with the Confederate flag. Brady said Superintendent Randy Poe has told her the Rebels mascot was inspired by James Dean and the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause.
"As an African-American I can understand and relate to and am offended by the Confederate flag and what it represents," Brady said. "However, we have no connection to that in Boone County schools. Nothing in our schools represents that flag or what it stands for."
Casey County Superintendent Marion Sowders said he's only been in office two years but hadn't heard any objections to the Rebels name. He acknowledged that it's something he'd be open to changing.
"I'm not tied to it forever," Sowders said. "If there were to be a lot of controversy surrounding it I'm sure (the Board of Education) would entertain those concerns. ... They're always willing to listen and are very open-minded."
The Rebels name has never been subject to debate at Atherton, according to Athletic Director Stephen Shartzer. He said the school uses "Atherton" or the "A" symbol on all of its athletic gear and that the school has never used Confederate flag imagery.
The road that led individual schools to adopt the Rebels nickname matters a great deal in deciding whether it should be reconsidered, KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said.
"I think a lot of it depends on how they got the nickname," Tackett said. "Was it all after the South or is there some history there that people don't know about? I think it's good for everybody to look into stuff."
Tackett said school nicknames and the Confederate flag are two different discussions.
"You really do have to get into the history of why they came up with it," he said. "Was it student led? It may be that there's a very legitimate reason why that name was chosen. ... Or did it have something to do with slavery and maybe we need to get rid of it?."
So why did UNLV pick the Rebels? The school's website says the nickname originated "because the school, emerging from the shadow of the University of Nevada, Reno, in effect 'rebelled' against its bigger and older brother to the north."
Representatives for Boyle County, Owen County and Todd County Central could not be reached for comment.