New York (CNN)The US Military Academy removed a longtime motto from its football team's spirit flag because the phrase is linked to hate groups, the academy said in a statement on Monday.
Motto linked to hate group removed from West Point football flag
The letters GFBD, an abbreviation of "God Forgives, Brothers Don't," graced the Army team's skull and crossbones spirit flag for more than 25 years, according to the statement.
The academy decided to make the change after ESPN alerted the academy of the phrase's tie to hate groups, Cheryl Boujnida, the academy's media relations chief, told CNN.
"Ideology, actions, and associations of hate groups directly conflict with our values and have no place at this institution," said Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, the academy's superintendent, in a statement. "After a prompt and thorough investigation, the academy is fully confident that the football team's use of the phrase was in no way related to a radical hate group or any similar groups."
The academy's investigation found the team began to use the flag with the initials on the skull and crossbones in the mid-1990s. The statement said the motto was used by team, known as the Black Knights, to underscore teamwork, loyalty and toughness.
The academy immediately stopped using the motto after learning of its tie to hate groups, the statement said.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, "GFBD" is commonly used by the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, one of the country's most violent white supremacist prison gangs. The gang is linked to organized crime, gang-related crime and hate-related crime, according to the ADL.
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt approved of the academy's decision to abandon the motto.
"Once informed of its context, it's good that the team recognized the slogan as a potential red flag and immediately took action," Greenblatt said in a statement.
Williams said the academy is taking steps to ensure that the team will not be associated with similar groups in the future.
The West Point Athletic Program provides competitive intra-collegiate sport experience for more than 2,400 cadets. It's an athletics program "committed to teaching the Army Values, cultivating the warrior ethos and instilling pride in the military culture," according to the academy's website.
The US Military Academy is located in West Point, New York, along the Hudson River, and was established by legislation signed by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802. It is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America, according to the academy.