With widespread protests across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes and Breonna Taylor’s murder by police in her own home in Louisville, Texas Longhorns football players have shared their thoughts on racial injustice publicly and even marched from the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to the State Capitol demanding changes and protesting both police brutality and systemic racism.
Along with protesting, the athletes have began to demand changed from the University of Texas. On Friday, in a show of coordinated solidarity, black Texas football student-athletes, along with some basketball and volleyball student-athletes, released a statement that featured a list of reasonable requests in lieu of skipping workouts, practices, and games.”
One of those requestss being the removal of the popular “The Eyes of Texas” as the school song. “The Eyes of Texas” is played before and after every Longhorns game, but has come under scrutiny in recent years. The song was first used in a minstrel show featuring blackface performers in 1903.
Leslie Blair, executive director of communications for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said that the school understands the concerns over the song in an interview last year. “We don’t want to forget the history of it,” Blair said. “The University is aware of its past, of course, and we try to acknowledge it and hopefully, offset it a little bit.”
According to the Texas State Historical Association, the University of Texas Board of Regents reaffirmed “The Eyes of Texas” as the university’s official song to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its first performance. The song has been played at notorious funerals such as Royal’s (whom the stadium is named after) and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson. A copy of the lyrics were even taken to the moon in 1969 by Longhorn alumnus Alan L. Bean.
Another request is the renaming of four specific buildings across the university’s campus. The buildings are named after confederate or racist figures in history. The players request the renaming of Robert Lee Moore Hall, Painter Hall, Littlefield Hall and James Hogg Auditorium. In addition to the renaming of the auditorium, they are requesting the statues of Hogg to be removed from campus again. Hogg’s statue was previously removed from the university’s south mall in August 2017 before being reinstalled in December 2018. The athletes suggest that renaming the buildings to and adding more statues of more diverse people of color across the campus. Another request is for a permanent black athletic history in the school’s Athletics Hall of Honor along with renaming part of the Darrel K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium after Julius Whittier who was the program’s first black player.
One of the players sharing the statement is Longhorn wide receiver Brennan Eagles who tweeted on June 3 that he was “not going to play another snap” due to what is going on in our society regarding race, color, and a broken system. He did not make any further comments on his statement until Friday with the releasing of the student-athletes’ reasonable requests. Junior cornerback Anthony Cook also expressed his concern about not playing another snap for the university during a time of racial injustice in a tweet on Thursday that has since been deleted.
During a Thursday media availability, junior safety Caden Sterns spoke out about using his platform to encourage changes.
The statement from the players reads:
“Here at the University of Texas, we live by the saying, ‘What starts here changes the world.’ The role of a student athlete at The University of Texas brings with it responsibilities beyond that of the average student. We are expected to serve as ambassadors for the university, our respective programs, the student body, and the entire State of Texas. As ambassadors, it is our duty to utilize our voice and role as leaders int he community to push for change to the benefit of the entire UT community.
The Recent evens across the country regarding racial injustice have brought to light the systemic racism that has always been prevalent in our country as well as the races that has historically plagues our campus. As a student athlete body, we have had many conversations about how Texas can actively take charge. Our athletic department released a statement acknowledging these injustices and and publicly supported the rights of student athletes using their voices to make change. We, as student athletes, and collectively as the University of Texas Longhorn football team, are aware that we are an athletic department made up of many black athletes, and believe that it is time we are active on our campus.
We aim to hold the athletic department and university to a higher standard by not only asking them to keep their promise of condemning racism on our campus, but to go beyond this by taking action to make Texas more comfortable and inclusive for the black athletes and black community that has so fervently supported this program.
On behalf of the UT student athletes, we ask to have the following issues addressed through implementation or a plan for implementation at the start of the fall semester. We will continue to practice, workout, and participate in all required team activities in preparation for the upcoming season, but without an official commitment from the university we will not be participating in the recruiting of incoming players or donor-related events. We are asking our fellow student athletes to stand with us.”
Just one day before the athlete released their requests, head coach Tom Herman said “I do know that our team is committed to making sure that that is not the last time you will see Texas football out on the forefront of changing the landscape and system of our society as best we can.”
It’s time for the university to begin implementing changes rather than just releasing public statements of support. It would speak much louder than words to see Texas begin putting policies in place and listening to the black voices within their own community.
The Longhorns athletic director responded Friday.
I am always willing to have meaningful conversations regarding any concerns our student-athletes have. We will do the same in this situation and look forward to having those discussions. https://t.co/kat3B9hqvo
— Chris Del Conte (@_delconte) June 12, 2020