The eyes of the college sports world are focused on Austin, Texas and the University of Texas with news that Texas Longhorn athletes are demanding multiple changes including retirement of the school fight song as well as renaming campus buildings named after racist figures. The Texas athletes will not participate in certain activities until the demands are met.
Brennan Eagles suggests he won’t play in protest
Since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis, Minnesota police, athletes across the entire spectrum of sports and all levels have spoken out against racial injustice and police brutality.
On June 2 the University of Texas head football coach Tom Herman had a three-hour virtual meeting with his staff and players, according to the Austin American-Statesman. Herman said the conversation focused on things much more important than football and indicated some guys “were rightfully angry and wanted to vent.”
Texas officials, including athletics director Chris Del Conte, have encouraged its staff and athletes to share their voices on social media and join the national conversation on racial inequalities.
On June 3, Longhorns junior receiver Brennan Eagles took officials up on their offer when he was the first to step forward and make a statement on his Instagram and Twitter accounts, suggesting he might not play the upcoming season in protest.
“Athletics brings people together all over, but at the end of the day, I’m not going to play another snap knowing what’s going on in our society due to color and the system being broken… i just can’t.”
University of Texas Longhorn athletes march from campus to capitol
A day after Eagles’ statement, a large group of Texas football players took it one step further, organizing a march that started at Royal-Memorial Stadium and ended on the north side of the Texas state capitol a mile away. It included head coach Tom Herman, members of his staff, and officers from the Austin Police Department.
Once at the capitol, they took a knee for nine minutes in remembrance of Floyd, who was held on the ground for eight minutes, 46 seconds before dying. During the gathering, numerous athletes spoke. Longhorns junior safety Caden Sterns made an impassioned statement on the current social unrest in the nation and finished with a powerful message.
“To the white community … if you want change like you say you do, you must change. What I mean is, you must realize, and the oppressor must realize, you are oppressing.”
University of Texas Longhorn athletes demand changes
After taking to social media, speaking out, and marching in protest against racial injustice, the University of Texas football team was joined by other sports including basketball, and volleyball, in making a unified statement on Friday demanding the university make multiple changes throughout the campus and its institutions.
Among the more notable items requested is the retirement of the school fight song “The Eyes of Texas.” The song was written in 1903 and was debated by the UT Student Government as recently as 2018 because it was originally sung and played at minstrel shows that featured performers in blackface.
A 2018 article in the campus newspaper The Daily Texan detailed how the song’s author, John Sinclair, was a member of the Varsity Minstrel Show, a performance group that “perpetuated the notion that African-Americans were lesser than whites.”
In addition to replacing the song, other requests included: rename multiple campus buildings named after racist figures, the athletics department donates .5% of annual earnings to black organizations and Black Lives Matter movements, and rename a section of the stadium after Julius Whittier, the first black football player at Texas.
UT athletics director responds
The athletes who shared the statement included Sterns, fellow defensive back, Josh Thompson, men’s basketball guard Jase Febres and more than a dozen football players, as well as representatives from soccer, volleyball, and basketball. Until those changes are made, the athletes said they will continue preparing for the fall season sports, but won’t participate in any donor-related or recruiting activities.
Del Conte replied on Twitter. “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,” he wrote.
The University of Texas motto is: “What starts here changes the world.” If Texas athletes get their way, those changes will start sooner rather than later.