Athletes at the University of Texas are using their positions to advocate for campus-wide change.
In a letter posted Friday by numerous football players and other athletes across multiple sports at the school, the students said they want Texas to rename certain buildings across campus, add a black athletic history exhibit to the school’s athletic hall of fame and for UT to find a new song for athletes to sing in place of the “Eyes of Texas.”
Until those changes are made, the athletes said they will participate in all required team activities to prep for the 2020 season but will sit out all “recruitment of incoming players or other alumni events.”
“The recent events 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 racism that has historically plagued our campus,” the letter said. “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 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 may black athletes and believe that it is time we become active on our campus.”
Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte responded to the letter on Twitter later Friday afternoon.
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
‘Eyes of Texas’ roots
The biggest change that fans would notice is the request to drop the ‘Eyes of Texas’ with a suitable replacement. The song was first performed at a minstrel show in the early 1900s and was based on what former school president Colonel Prather would tell students. Prather went to Washington and Lee University where former school president and Confederate General Robert E. Lee would say “The eyes of the South are upon you.” Prather had tweaked that phrase to replace the word South with Texas.
Rename 4 buildings on campus
The athletes want new names for Robert Lee Moore Hall, Painter Hall, Littlefield Hall and James Hogg Auditorium and education for incoming freshmen regarding racism throughout the history of the school.
On an athletic front, the players want a permanent black history exhibit in the Hall of Fame, donations from the athletic department to black organizations and Black Lives Matter movements and something at Darrell K. Royal Stadium named for Julius Whittier, the first black football player at the school.
Texas highlighting the ways players are speaking out
Wednesday, Del Conte detailed the ways that athletes at the school had spoken out after George Floyd’s killing on May 25. He noted the march Texas football players took to the state capitol the week before and how they then took a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds in honor of Floyd.
Del Conte said he was proud of the way that athletes at the school were speaking up for social change.
“Sports have always played a powerful role in affecting social change, and I continue to be so very proud of the way our student-athletes and coaches are speaking up in support of progress,” Del Conte said. “Change is happening all around, and they all will be a part of the critical leadership in taking a stance and helping to unify us. This is just the tipping point, we are just getting started. We, as an athletics department, will continue to be a part of the conversation and the actions needed to keep moving the ball forward in supporting our friends and families in the Black community.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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