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Texas Football Players Call on University to Drop a Song Steeped in Racist History

For generations, college students on the University of Texas at Austin have stood up at sports activities video games, raised their proper hand to kind the image of the storied Texas Longhorns and belted out “The Eyes of Texas,” a campus anthem.

Now, athletes together with members of the college’s soccer workforce, which holds an exalted place within the campus tradition, need the track gone.

Unbeknown to many college students and alumni, the track will be traced again to Robert E. Lee, the Confederate normal, and was carried out at minstrel reveals within the early 20th century.

On Friday, student-athletes referred to that troubled historical past once they known as on the college to switch it with a track “without racists undertones.”

It was amongst a protracted record of requests made by the athletes, who stated that if their calls for weren’t met, they might now not assist the college recruit new gamers or take part in donor occasions.

“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,” the athletes wrote in a letter posted on Twitter by a number of gamers, together with Brennan Eagles, a Longhorns large receiver.

The division and college, they wrote, should take motion “to make Texas more comfortable and inclusive for the black athletes and the black community that has so fervently supported this program.”

The track has turn into another symbol linked to the Confederacy to face intense scrutiny and demands for removal amid the nationwide protests after the dying of George Floyd on May 25. The soccer workforce marched collectively in Austin this month, linking arms and taking a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck as he cried out that he couldn’t breathe.

Nearly one week after Mr. Floyd’s dying, Chris Del Conte, the college athletics director, inspired athletes and employees members in a statement to “speak up and become a part of the direct and difficult conversations that must take place in the days and weeks ahead.”

“It is our duty to stand up against racism,” he added.

On Friday, Mr. Del Conte posted the athletes’ letter on his private Twitter account and indicated that he would discuss to the scholars about their calls for.

“I am always willing to have meaningful conversations regarding any concerns our student-athletes have,” Mr. Del Conte stated. “We will do the same in this situation and look forward to having those discussions.”

J.B. Bird, a spokesman for the college, stated in an electronic mail that college officers have been conscious of the student-athletes’ record of requests.

He stated college officers “look forward to working with them and the UT community to create the best possible experience on our campus for Black students.”

The athletes known as on the athletics division and the college to take a sequence of measures together with making a everlasting black athletic historical past exhibit in its Hall of Fame; donating a portion of the athletics division’s annual earnings to black organizations, together with Black Lives Matter; and renaming campus buildings, together with one honoring a mathematics professor who refused to let black students in his class after the college desegregated.

Lee’s connection to the track got here by William Prather, president of the University of Texas from 1899 to 1905. In the 1860s, Prather had been a scholar at Washington College, in Lexington, Va., whereas Lee was the varsity’s president.

Lee would at all times finish remarks to Washington college members and college students by saying “the eyes of the South are upon you,” in accordance with Edmund T. Gordon, a professor within the University of Texas’ African and African diaspora research division.

Those remarks have been most definitely meant to remind college students that the “tradition and the heritage of the South are watching over you and you should conform or engage in comportment that comes with that valiant tradition,” Professor Gordon stated on Saturday.

That notion, of the antebellum South as a pastoral paradise stuffed with gallantry, is named the “Lost Cause” ideology, which seeks to minimize the evils of slavery and solid the Confederacy’s trigger through the Civil War as simply and heroic, he added.

When Mr. Prather turned president of the University of Texas, he invoked the phrase and changed it to “the eyes of Texas are upon you,” Professor Gordon stated.

Students wrote satirical lyrics with the phrase and set them to the tune of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”

Its first efficiency was round 1903, by a college quartet at a minstrel present on the Hancock Opera House in Austin, the professor stated.

“The assumption is it was performed in blackface,” he stated.

The college acknowledges on its website that the track was “first sung at a minstrel show and taken indirectly from a Robert E. Lee quote, contextual elements that many people find offensive.”

“Embracing the song’s meaning today should not stop us from seeing its complicated past, and acknowledging the many ways that people see the song,” it added.

There has been resistance to the track earlier than, Professor Gordon stated. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, some student-athletes refused to face when the track was performed, however their efforts didn’t go far. In 2018, the coed authorities held a debate over whether or not to cease singing the track.

“This is the first time that I know of that there has been relatively widespread support for having it not be the school song,” stated Professor Gordon, who has been on the college for 30 years.

During a briefing with the news media on Thursday, Caden Sterns, a defensive again, stated the current protests round Mr. Floyd’s dying and police brutality had created an obligation for college students to teach themselves on the nation’s historical past of racism.

Credit…Michael Thomas/Associated Press

“We’re more than just people out there just banging our heads and hitting people,” he stated. “We’ve got people who got beliefs and perspectives, and so as athletes, I think we should use that to the fullest ability.”

On Friday, Mr. Sterns posted a message on Twitter, thanking individuals who have supported the workforce’s name for change.

“And for those who don’t.. and reacting with hate… still nothing but love,” he wrote. “True colors are being shown, and the hate will be EXPOSED.”

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