Dahr Jamail and his brothers were more than willing to have their father’s name removed from the field at Texas’ Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in favor of UT football legends Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. And, in an interview with ESPN, he cited the presidency of Donald Trump as part of the reason why.
The field has been named for Joe Jamail, a longtime UT donor who died in 2015, since 1997. That was until Monday, when Texas announced an array of initiatives and changes — including changing the field’s name to honor Campbell and Williams, UT’s two Heisman Trophy winners — as part of a wide-reaching effort to create “a more diverse and welcoming campus.”
The Jamail family suggested the change five days after numerous UT athletes shared a statement asking for campus-wide changes — an effort that was sparked by the death of George Floyd and other “events across the country regarding racial injustice.”
Dahr Jamail, 67, said he was deeply affected by Floyd’s death and feels the United States is a “leaderless country” under a “president who supports white supremacists.”
"As I told Ricky [Williams] earlier, I was watching that sickening video of George Floyd getting murdered. I just wept," said Jamail. "I was just thinking, how did we fall so low, to have a leaderless country, to have a president who supports white supremacists, this great-people-on-both-sides horses---? Truthfully, I don't give a flying f--- if you quote me. It's sickening. It's embarrassing that people try to justify it.
"There's no middle ground here," Jamail said. "It's not confusing. Our mothers, our churches, our synagogues, our mosques, our schools don't teach us this. It's a simple golden rule. The fact that George Floyd dies to make people think about what they see every day, and allow it to become normal. We're not in normal times. We're leaderless. You've got a president that glorifies it."
Dahr Jamail, with his brothers Randall and Rob, wrote a letter to UT interim president Jay Hartzell on June 17 urging the university to change the name of the football field in honor of Campbell and Williams, both of whom have close relationships with the Jamail family.
In the letter, the Jamail brothers acknowledged the name-change gesture was “symbolic” in nature, but would help show that UT was showing “strength and initiative” and making “promoting justice” a priority.
"Although symbolic, this change would show the entire University community, its students, faculty and alumni, as well as the public, that 'doing right' involves promoting justice as a first priority. It will demonstrate by action, the University leads, not follows. ... Given the outcry, public health, and social crises we face, please take this action immediately for maximum impact, certainly before news media or other outside demands make the honor seem reactive. The University is best served by showing strength and initiative on these issues,” the letter said.
Other changes coming to Texas
Just under a month after the letter was sent, the change was made — as were several others. In athletics, the university will erect a statue of Julius Whittier, the first Black football letterman at Texas, outside the stadium.
The university will increase funding for programs “that work to recruit, attract, retain and support Black students.” Part of that initiative will include increasing UT’s presence in cities like Houston, Dallas and San Antonio in an effort to recruit students “from underrepresented groups.” The university also said it will emphasize featuring a “broader range of students” on its UT Austin Police Oversight Committee.
On campus, the building named after Robert L. Moore — a former math professor who refused to teach Black students — will be renamed the Physics, Math and Astronomy Building. Within that building, “historical explanations within the building about why past university leaders chose to name the space for Professor Moore” will be present.
Heman Sweatt, the man who fought segregation all the way to the Supreme Court in a case that allowed him and other Black students to attend UT, will be honored with a statue and further recognized on campus. Additionally, the school’s first Black undergraduates, known as the Precursors, will be honored with a new monument.