Texas athletes call for changes to address university’s racial past and future

In a show of unity and force, multiple University of Texas athletes from various sports posted a series of requests on social media Friday that, if enacted, would radically alter the racial landscape at the school.

Athletes posted a typed, two-page letter on Twitter that was not signed by any individual. The letter says, “On behalf of the UT student athletes, we ask to have the following issues addressed through the implementation or a plan for implementation at the start of the fall semester.”

“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 states.

“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 become active on our campus.”

Several black Texas athletes are requesting changes this fall, including changing the names of buildings, a black athlete history exhibit and to stop requiring athletes to sing “The Eyes of Texas.” https://t.co/gehBM88cAI

At this point, it’s unclear who speaks for the group. Texas officials could not be reached immediately.

The group is asking the university to rename several buildings on campus that have been on critics’ watch lists for years — Robert Lee Moore Hall, Painter Hall, Littlefield Hall and James Hogg Auditorium. The group also calls for the “replacement of statues with more diverse statues on campus designed by artists/sculptors who are people of color.”

In addition, the group calls for the inclusion of education modules for incoming freshmen about the history of racism on campus. They also are asking for the creation of an outreach program for inner cities — namely Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

Furthermore, the group calls for a permanent Black athletic history exhibit, and that the athletic department give 0.5% of its annual earnings to Black organizations and the Black Lives Matter movement. Based on the most recent audited figures, that total would equal to approximately $1.1 million from a revenue base of $223.9 million.

The group also asks that a portion of Royal-Memorial Stadium be named after Julius Whittier, the first black varsity football player at Texas. Whittier was a freshman on the 1969 national championship squad, the last all-white national title team in college football history. He was ineligible to play in 1969 per NCAA freshman rules.

And finally, the group asks that players no longer be forced to sing the school song, “The Eyes of Texas,” after games. The letter requests the replacement of a new song “without racist undertones.”

Most Texas fans only know they sing “The Eyes” before and after games. However, the song originated in the early 1900s during the Jim Crow era. In an article for The Daily Texan in April 2018, the university’s vice provost for diversity Ted Gordon made clear the song’s history.

“The University of Texas, at least originally, had very clear minstrel connections,” Gordon told The Daily Texan. “(‘The Eyes of Texas’) was first sung and played at a minstrel show, which featured performers in black face.”

Without any changes, football players say they will not host recruits this fall or attend donor events as are customs. “We are asking our fellow student athletes to stand with us,” the letter said.

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