Here’s why the Boy Scouts of America are rebranding

DALLAS (AP) — After more than a century, Boy Scouts of America is rebranding as Scouting America, another major shakeup for an organization that once proudly resisted change.

Founded 114 years ago, the Texas-based organization has recently been mired in turmoil over a flood of sexual abuse claims and bankruptcy. Now, the organization is leaning into a more inclusive message as girls have been joining throughout its ranks.

“It sends this really strong message to everyone in America that they can come to this program, they can bring their authentic self, they can be who they are and they will be welcomed here,” said Roger Krone, who took over last fall as president and chief executive officer.

The change was announced Tuesday at the Boy Scout’s national meeting in Florida but won’t take effect until February 2025.

Here’s a look at what led up to the change and why it matters:

Why are they changing the name?

The new name puts a focus on inclusivity. Krone told The Associated Press that they wanted a name going forward that made clear that all children and teens are “very, very welcome.”

He added that when people question why the organization needs a new name, he points to historically low membership numbers.

Like other organizations, the scouts lost members during the pandemic, when participation was difficult. The high point over the past decade was in 2018, when there were more than 2 million members. Currently, the organization serves just over 1 million young people, including more than 176,000 girls and teens. Membership peaked in 1972 at almost 5 million.

Krone said that although the name is changing, the core of the organization is staying the same. “Our mission remains unchanged: we are committed to teaching young people” to be prepared for life, he said in a written statement.

How else has the Boy Scouts changed?

The organization began allowing in gay members in 2013 and ended a blanket ban on gay adult leaders in 2015. In 2017, it made the historic announcement that girls would be accepted as Cub Scouts as of 2018 and two years later, into the flagship Boy Scout program — renamed Scouts BSA.

Over 6,000 girls have now achieved the vaunted Eagle Scout rank.

There were nearly 1,000 teens and young women in the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts in 2021.

Before it was announced in 2017 that girls would be allowed throughout the ranks, the Boy Scouts announced that they would allow transgender boys to enroll in their boys-only programs.

The organization said this week that all young people, including transgender children, are welcomed as part of their membership policy.

What about the bankruptcy and sex abuse claims?

When it sought bankruptcy protection in 2020, the Boy Scouts of America had been named in about 275 lawsuits, and told insurers it was aware of another 1,400 claims.

Last year a federal judge upheld the $2.4 billion bankruptcy plan allowing the organization to keep operating while compensating more than 80,000 men who filed claims saying they were sexually abused as children and teen scouts.

What do people think of the rebrand?

Rebranding can risk alienating supporters who think the change is unnecessary, said David Aaker, vice chair of the national branding and marketing firm Prophet. But he described the Boy Scouts’ rebranding as savvy, saying it kickstarts a new conversation about the organization while not being so drastic that it strays too far from its original scouting mission.

“It’s a one-time chance to tell a new story,” said Aaker, who also is a professor emeritus at the University of California-Berkeley Haas business school.

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The National Organization for Women had urged the Boy Scouts to open membership to girls throughout its ranks. Bear Atwood, vice president of NOW, said the name change “signals that not only are girls allowed to join, but they are welcome to join.”

Reaction online Tuesday ranged from those excited and supportive to those decrying that “boy” no longer appears in the name. “Wokeness destroys everything it touches,” wrote state Rep. Andrew Clyde, a Georgia Republican, on the social platform X.

What about Girl Scouts?

The Girl Scouts of the USA — a separate organization from the Boy Scouts of America — had taken issue with the Boy Scouts opening its doors to girls throughout the ranks, and had filed a lawsuit saying it created marketplace confusion and damaged their recruitment efforts. The two organization reached a settlement agreement after a judge rejected those claims, saying both groups are free to use words like “scouts” and “scouting.”

With that settlement in 2022, the Girl Scouts said both organizations were “looking forward to focusing on their respective missions,” while the Boy Scouts said the agreement would bring “a new period of cooperation” between the organizations.

The Girl Scouts did not immediately offer comment on the Boy Scouts’ name change.

When is the new name official?

The Boy Scouts of America won’t officially become Scouting America until Feb. 8, 2025, the organization’s 115th birthday. But Krone said he expects people will start immediately using the name.

Associated Press reporter Jim Vertuno in Austin contributed to this report.

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