The Saskatchewan Roughriders‘ beloved mascot, who has been in existence since 1977, unveiled his second makeover of the week on Saturday when the Riders hosted the Calgary Stampeders — and the early reaction from fans was more positive than the first time around.
Gainer the Gopher’s pregame introduction drew a loud ovation from those at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday.
“Much better. Gainer looks like Gainer again,” said longtime Riders fan Maria Green.
Gainer showed off his first new look at the team’s home opener on July 1 — a 32-7 victory over the visiting Toronto Argonauts — and many Saskatchewan fans were unhappy with the visible changes to the gopher’s appearance, especially his eyes.
Social media channels flooded with memes and GIFs mocking Gainer’s new look, which featured a slimmer body and green eyes. The hashtags #BringBackGainer and #NotMyGainer trended on Twitter.
An online petition asking for Gainer’s look to be changed following Monday’s game generated more than 4,375 signatures leading up to the Saturday night contest.
Dozens of comments on the petition were negative, describing the changed Gainer as “creepy and evil-looking” and “a psychotic, anorexic chipmunk.”
The Riders organization offered no substantial comment on the controversy throughout the week, instead issuing a statement saying: “We’ve decided to let Gainer speak for himself.”
And on Saturday night, he did.
Ahead of the kickoff against Calgary, the Riders posted a video on social media showing Gainer in the locker room, where he took his short-lived green contact lenses and threw them into the garbage before heading to the field with black eyes, similar to his original look.