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Army football team removes slogan because of ties to white supremacist groups

The letters "G.F.B.D." were etched onto a skull-and-crossbones symbol on the Army football team's flag. The acronym stands for "God Forgives, Brothers Don't."
Image: Caleb McNeill
Army defensive back Caleb McNeill carries the flag of France onto the field before an NCAA college football game against Tulane, in West Point, NY on Nov. 14, 2015.Mike Groll / AP

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point's football team is changing its motto after learning of its ties to white supremacist groups, a spokesman said.

Since the mid-1990s, the Army Black Knights used a skull-and-crossbones flag with the letters "G.F.B.D." — for God Forgives, Brothers Don't — written on the skull's lips.

But a few months ago, the football program removed the acronym from the flag and merchandise after administrators were told in September that it's linked to the Aryan Brotherhood and motorcycle gangs, according to ESPN.

In a statement to NBC News, a West Point spokesman said the football program was initially unaware that the acronym and saying were "associated with extremist groups."

"The motto was originally used to emphasize teamwork, loyalty, and toughness," the statement said. "The academy immediately discontinued using it upon notification of its tie to hate groups."

According to the Anti-Defamation League, one of the most popular sayings used by the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas is "God Forgives, Brothers Don't." The group is one of the largest and most violent white supremacist prison gangs in the country, according to the ADL.

The military academy's superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, said in a statement that the team's use of "G.F.B.D." was "in no way related to a radical hate group or any similar group."

"The U.S. Military Academy is fully committed to developing leaders of character who embody the Army values," Williams said. "Ideology, actions, and associations of hate groups directly conflict with our values and have no place at this institution."

Williams told ESPN the incident was "embarrassing." and he immediately asked for an investigation upon learning about the slogan's origin.

"We take stuff like this very, very seriously. Once I found out about this goofiness, I asked one of our most senior colonels to investigate," he told the outlet.

West Point's athletic director, Mike Buddie, told ESPN that a group of players on the football team adopted the slogan after seeing it in the movie "Stone Cold," which stars former NFL star Brian Bosworth as a police officer who infiltrates a fictitious Mississippi biker gang called The Brotherhood.

Academy investigators spoke to the former West Point cadet who introduced the slogan, and he said he did not know of its ties to white supremacy groups, Buddie told the outlet.