REGINA — Gainer the Gopher has found out this week just how much controversy a makeover can cause.
Gainer, who has been the mascot for the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders since 1977, unveiled a new look at the team's home opener on July 1 at Mosaic Stadium.
Previously, Gainer sported a chunky body with a gentle face featuring a shy grin and black eyes. Gainer's new look — a slimmer body and a face that has an open-mouth smile and intense green eyes — sent the passionate Riders fanbase into a frenzy on social media.
Twitter, Instagram and Facebook exploded with memes and GIFs, many mocking Gainer's new look. The makeover went viral with the hashtags #BringBackGainer and #NotMyGainer dominating the posts.
Maria Vincente, a Riders fan who lives in Edmonton, started an online petition after the game. Vincente’s petition, which had 4,375 signatures as of Friday morning, states "Someone has replaced Gainer with an impostor. Rider Nation wants the real Gainer back.”
The petition has a huge number of comments, most of which are negative when it comes to the new and improved Gainer. The comments describe the new Gainer as "creepy and evil looking," "a psychotic anorexic chipmunk" and "crack binge Gainer."
The Riders organization chose to remain silent on the controversy this week, issuing a statement saying, "We've decided to let Gainer speak for himself."
Yet the social media frenzy continued. Even former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall tossed a few tweets into the fray. He made his support of the former Gainer quite clear — “Just met #MidlifeCrisisGainer. Hair is dyed, some sort of fad diet. This must be changed. #ClassicGainer".
The new Gainer will get another chance to win over the fans on Saturday night when the Riders host the Calgary Stampeders.
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press