The Denver Nuggets, a professional basketball organization, was forced to reveal that its popular mascot, Rocky, is not a real mountain lion. However, it was not a whistleblower who exposed the nearly 24-year-old secret, nor was it Rocky finally succumbing to the significant pressures that often accompany living a lie. Straight out of Shakespearean tragedy or the pages of a decent political potboiler, it was a seemingly innocent turn of events that would eventually betray the ersatz puma.
The Denver Post published a report this afternoon explaining that an initially insignificant post on social media was what led to the admission that Rocky is actually a human male carefully made up to look like a catamount. Last night, the Colorado GOP tweeted a picture of Rocky mugging with some attendees of a rally held at Heritage High School in Littleton, Colorado. While this seems within the rights of any mountain cat living in a democratic society, and although the owner of the team that Rocky represents is often identified as aligning with the GOP, the Nuggets organization took exception upon learning of the tweet, which has since been deleted.
“As a sports team, we want to be apolitical,” Graham Wincott, marketing manager for the Nuggets, told the Post. “Two things we never touch on are politics and religion.”
It seems that Rocky never notified the team that he planned on attending the rally, which was held in support of Colorado gubernatorial hopeful Bob Beauprez and featured appearances by Senate candidate Cory Gardner and 2012 presidential runner-up Mitt Romney. Concerned that Rocky’s presence would be misconstrued as support from the Nuggets organization for Republican candidates running for office in the November elections, yet unwilling to disavow a beloved mascot, the sports franchise felt compelled to divulge that Rocky is in fact a man named Ken Solomon. Wincott made it clear that Solomon, appearing as Rocky at the rally, was something that Denver’s National Basketball Association franchise neither expected or wanted.
The announcement of Rocky’s real identity was not a shock to everyone. One Nuggets fan said that she had always harbored suspicions, since all of the mountain lions she had ever encountered did not wear athletic warm-ups and were every one of them terrible at basketball. Despite the announcement from the Nuggets as well as Rocky’s obvious anthropomorphism and lack of true feline joints or a working mouth, there are a few that continue to conflate Solomon, who attended the rally, and Rocky, now known to be a fictional character.
Upon hearing of the Nuggets attempts at distancing themselves from Solomon’s actions, Colorado Republican Party chairman Ryan Call sent out an email showing his support for Rocky. “I’m sure everyone understands that his appearance in no way implies an endorsement by the Denver Nuggets of any candidate or party,” Call wrote. It was clear that he didn’t think it was necessary to vilify the mascot for showing his political stripe. “Nuggets fans also understand that even Rocky has First Amendment rights and the Colorado Republican Party stands with him.”