Shorewood - For 12 seasons, the co-op football team formed by the private Catholic Messmer High School and the public Shorewood High School has operated with little conflict.
Players routinely pray before games and many applaud the diversity of the team that blends mostly white, middle-class students in Shorewood with those from a school 14 blocks away serving more students of color, from more varied economic backgrounds.
But after a Shorewood High School parent and some students complained this month about the new football team helmet logo, which combines the Shorewood greyhound with a Messmer bishop's hat and a cross, the administration quickly mobilized to remove and replace the decal.
That new logo, unveiled on the Shorewood field before practice Wednesday: a benign image of a football and the words, "2012 Playoffs."
The team is 6-1 and will host its first playoff game this fall.
Sure to offend nobody, the new logo clearly separates church and state and served as an opportunity for officials from Messmer and Shorewood to talk Wednesday about the respect both school communities have for each other.
Brother Bob Smith, president of Messmer Catholic Schools, said that while he'd like some image representative of his school's faith on the helmet, he understood there may not be a way to do that.
"My life will continue," he said. "I'm a Bears fan and I still come to work every day."
The Messmer/Shorewood football team, formed in 2000, became the focus of a graphic arts class project last year in which students developed a shared logo for the team.
According to the Shorewood High School newspaper, then-sophomore Sam Pagenkopf designed the now-controversial logo, which was one of about 20 logo proofs that were OK'd by both administrations.
That fact that the design contained religious symbolism "did not occur to any of the involved parties as possibly problematic given the longstanding relationship with Messmer," said a communication to the Shorewood School Board prepared by new Superintendent Marty Lexmond.
Lexmond asked the board to discuss the issue at its meeting Tuesday night, and there was consensus that the logo should be changed this week.
"It's clearly a Christian cross," board member Michael Mishlove said, according to ShorewoodNOW.com. "I think it's inappropriate to have on a uniform or any sort of school-authorized clothing, as I think it could be viewed as an endorsement."
Shorewood High Principal Matt Joynt said he didn't know the exact cost of replacing the logo, which will be needed on 72 helmets, but that it would be minimal.
Several student players seemed indifferent about the whole affair. They were fine with the old design and the rushed replacement, too.
"Sure, we lost a little bit of our personality" in the new design, player Alec Grimmer said. "But it's about this season now."
The team will take on Living Word Lutheran on Friday night.
Football coach Drake Zortman said officials intend to have students at both schools help design a new logo for next year.
"We are certainly sensitive to all diverse points of view," Zortman said. "We are one unit, always striving toward one goal."
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