View from a former Rainbows football player

Mr. Reardon, I received a copy of your 8 February article from Mike Biscotti. It has been 42 years since I stepped off the playing field at the old “Termite Palace” (Honolulu Stadium in Moiliili district at the corner of King and Isenberg Streets) as a University of  Hawaii Rainbow football player. Over the years I have made efforts (with little luck) to help bring some unity to players of that era. Thanks to Na Koa, however, that is finally starting to take place. Last month the issue of “Rainbows” versus “Rainbow Warriors”…. versus (now) just plain “Warriors”, came into the spotlight.

When I played for UH, we had no issues with the term “Rainbows“. As you may know, UH was originally the “Deans” in the very early years. But then “Rainbows” came into being for an appropriate reason. If there was an issue with the term “Rainbows” being used in a derogatory manner on the playing field, we remedied that the good old fashion way–by playing smash mouth football and knocking those who would dare mock us on their okoles. However, I seldom recall that being an issue. We were also often referred to as the “Bows” (especially in the local press), which I also think was unique. “Rainbows” or “Bows” was/is indeed very unique–something we don’t see much of these days among sports team names. I know of no players who ever had an issue with it. The only issue I think several of us had was those horrible blue/green floral blazers we were charged to wear for away games! Fortunately we had very few away games in my days. A few of those jackets, I might add, still exist today. It is a hoot to see who can still fit in one–let alone have the courage to be photographed wearing one–as was the case two years ago when Murray Cassidy brought his to the Hawaii vs Army game held at West Point.

I hope the fan base in Hawaii will step up and make an issue of this matter. But that has yet to be seen. In my opinion, we need something to stir up and invigorate the masses. Apparently apathy in the fan base has been cited as the reason for initiating the proposed name change. Trust me, that is not the answer. The answer is winning and projecting UH as the powerful football program it is very capable of turning itself into once again. From everything I’ve seen and have heard (even back here on the east coast) I think Coach Chow has what it takes to turn things around, especially if support from the fan base can hold firm.

I find it interesting that Mr. Ben Jay has made [an apparent] unilateral decision to go with strictly “Warriors”. Please answer: WHY?  I am now a 20-year employee at Penn State University–the Nittany Lions (within “The Nittany Nation”). I can guarantee you that if someone in a position of  leadership at Penn State proposed changing the name to strictly “Lions” a riot would ensue. And I would imagine that individual would be run out of town on a rail. UH has (or should I say had?) a unique team name. I didn’t mind the addition of “Warriors” to “Rainbows“, although I didn’t really see that as necessary. The Ohio State University has the nickname “Buckeyes”. What the hell is a “Buckeye”? But if someone were to suggest changing that name, I guarantee you it would not only get national attention–the perpetrator of such a name change would be run out of Columbus also. I find it particularly interesting (and perhaps ironic) that in Mr. Jay’s previous life he served (no less) as a senior member on the staff of The Ohio State University’s athletic department before coming to the University of Hawaii. Could it possibly be that he was run out of town for suggesting an alternative to “Buckeyes”? Of course I jest, but hopefully I make a point.  I’m sure Mr. Jay is a fine man who is quite capable of running the finances and operations of the University of Hawaii’s athletic department. But let him leave the marketing to the marketing experts–of which he is proving he is not–unless this is some sly effort on his part to energize the masses. If that is the case I take it all back and pronounce Mr. Jay a genius.

The nickname “Rainbows” is not only unique–there is a standing story behind it to which each and every player that ever wore a UH football uniform knows is true. I seldom recall a day that didn’t go by that did without seeing a rainbow nestled at the apex of Manoa Valley. Sometimes there were double (and occasionally even a triple) rainbow for all to see and admire. So it is very easy and appropriate to see how “Rainbows” transpired.

Tradition is important. I spent a major portion of my life as a U.S. Marine. Even though my contemporaries are old and gray, we still cling to one word  to describe ourselves–“Marines”. We don’t need to be called “Marine Warriors” because that would be redundant. The same goes (in my humble opinion) for “Rainbows”. The warrior part should be displayed of the field where actions speak louder than words. As for my “Rainbows” roots, many of my vintage still refer to ourselves as “Bows”– or “Mature Bows”! That is also very unique and something only we ourselves need to understand.

Quick anecdote in closing…. As you may know Penn State has not had a particularly great year here in “Happy Valley”. But we did have a particularly satisfying season in football. Despite all the issues and poor examples of leadership I observed throughout the ordeal, the new coach, fans, and players hung together for one of the most memorable seasons ever in the history of the university. UH is equally positioned to have the greatest fan base of any school in the nation. That fan base, however, needs to stick with the team through thick and thin.

Respectfully yours/Go Rainbows

Greg Johnson
UH Class of ’71
(seasons ’68, ’69 and ’70)


  1. Manu March 11, 2013 4:17 pm

    I do not think anyone could have said it any more eloquently. Not only is this a former UH Rainbow but a true Rainbow fan in the purest form. Congrats sir for your wisdom and straightforward common sense. How significant that the Marine Corps motto of Semper Fidelis should also pertain. Always Faithful. Man, what a great letter!!!

  2. gft March 11, 2013 4:18 pm

    Well said.

  3. Steve P March 11, 2013 5:39 pm

    Well said Greg Johnson, far too much unilateral changes for the UH brand. Rainbow Warriors (Bows) is what I grew up with too. I still use it.

  4. Old School Dave March 11, 2013 7:49 pm

    Not a big issue. Bottom line is that the Football team needs to win. AD Ben Jay said that fans can continue to call the team Rainbows if they want. Someone who says that they will no longer support UH because of the nickname is not really a fan. You can blame June Jones for all of this. There are more serious issues at hand, namely generating financial support and donations to repair and upgrade facilities and to provide things like a year-round training table.

  5. hossana March 11, 2013 8:31 pm

    I am sick and tired of people criticizing the name change that the new A.D. implemented that will take effect as of July 1. If people were so adamant about it, why did they only get involve and start criticizing now when the new A.D. made the change. There was no protest prior to it but only when he said that the name will be WARRIORS for the men’s team did there seem to be slight criticism. Typical locals..always reacting instead of proacting….stop wasting energy on this topic….what’s done is done. I give the new A.D. credit for making a damm decision where everybody else was just dilly dallying or circumventing the issue. What’s done is done and the news media should just shaddup and accept it. Geezus, Christ!! Like we don’t have more imp. issues in the athletic dept. that the new A.D. is confronted with in this position.

  6. Brian Kataoka March 11, 2013 8:49 pm

    Mr. Johnson,

    As a former UH alumnus Class of 76. I agree with you 100% Go Bows!

  7. innocent observer March 11, 2013 9:29 pm

    agree with Mr. Johnson 100%, there was no need to add warriors to the name and having a name as “rainbow” is not demeaning; it is truly unique and represents what UH is all about, the diversity of its students, faculty and the people of Hawaii. bring back the “rainbows”.

  8. pokie March 11, 2013 11:25 pm

    Ben Jay is an outsider. He comes from the mainland where the term rainbow is mainly equated with the gay movement. He said he puts student-athletes first. He asked the student-athletes which name they preferred. Most of the student-athletes are kids who go along with current public sentiment, little consideration for tradition. I believe the sole reason Ben removed Rainbows from UH Athletics is because some of the players said they were being teased about the name. Branding is just an excuse. This question was asked before and I even emailed the AD ‘What is the difference between a Warrior and a Rainbow Warrior as far as branding is concerned?’ They’re both warriors. No reply was ever received from Ben Jay.

  9. Paco March 12, 2013 6:19 am

    Very nice email. Unfortunately it is way to late. This was and should’ve been more vigourously debated when the name was first changed years ago. For all the stink the Joe Moore made once the football team started winning the Warriors stuck. While I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Jay’s decision (I prefer Rainbow Warriors) I understand that something needed to be done to ensure all teams were consistent and am glad he acted to fix it.

  10. Aaron March 12, 2013 8:26 am

    No one is “making an issue” of it because most people are ok with the change to “Warriors”. The “H” and the “Warriors” moniker has had a pretty successful trial run since its inception back in 2000. Whenever there is change, there are disagreements. But the fact that there aren’t any rallies being held to “Save the Rainbow” is telling. There is a very vocal minority who feel strongly about keeping the Rainbows nickname, but at the end of the day they are still a minority. This has less to do with any negative connotation for the rainbow and more to do the fact that a lot of people TODAY really like the “H” logo.

  11. Generation Y March 12, 2013 8:36 am

    Landscape has changed. Culture has changed. Technology has changed. Society has changed. Perception has changed. Young men and women now identify the Rainbow as a symbol for a certain community. An association that was not around in ’68, ’69, ’70, and ’71. The Bows memories of greatness are just that, History and should be preserved. But now is the future and a change was needed now. The young men of Generation Z appreciate the change and can hold confidence in their name, The Warriors.

  12. Old School Dave March 12, 2013 9:48 am

    Again, you can blame June Jones for this. Back in 1973 when he transfered to UH from Oregon, he was beaten out of the no. 1 QB position by Casey Ortiz (an SMU transfer). The next year, Larry Price took over as head coach, adopted the Rainbow Warrior name, shifted to an option style offense, (the Hula-T) that had moderate success (going 6-5 in 74 & 75) with Alex Kaloi running it. Jones, a drop back passer, was down on the depth chart and transferred to Portland State. Fast forward when Jones took over as head coach in 99, wanted to get rid of anything connected with the past and made the statement that there was no tradition before he came back to UH, thus with the help of his “Jerry McGuire” sports agent embarked and adopted the Warrior moniker and dumped Rainbow from being associated with the football program. New UH AD Ben Jay is simply trying to clean up the mess left over here with a athletic department that has an identity problem with too many nicknames for different teams.

  13. Kimo March 12, 2013 10:44 am

    Great letter from Mr. Johnson, thank you sir for your straight forward comments/opinions, thoroughly enjoyed reading about your past experiences as a
    “Hawaii Rainbow” or “Bows” or just plain “Warrior”, It sounds as though you were on several different teams in Hawaii. My personal thoughts on the subject of “name changes”, is that do I understand the name “Warrior” is exclusively a male dominated football name? And if I’m on the same page as are those on this website, is the name “Wahine” obviously a female dominated basketball, volleyball, softball, etc., name? Do we have a different name for the swimming team, tennis team, hopscotch team, etc, where both men and women participate, and are the men and women addressed by their gender? If you believe we readers are confused by these “name” callings, how do you suppose people around the country see our confused University of Hawaii marketing genius’.

  14. leahi2 March 12, 2013 1:32 pm

    I partly agree with #10 Aaron (above) in that the “H” logo is something we all love. I don’t want that to change. So to revert to the Rainbow Warriors moniker should not nean that we abolish the “H”. I hope your readers get this one thing straight. By the way, in my opinion, the old white helmets with the Rainbow logo on the back side was just plain ugly. I would think that it was and is the kind of ugliness that make lot of fans shudder at the talk of the Rainbow.

Comments are closed.