AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A group of University of Texas football players and athletes across several sports called on the school Friday to rename several campus buildings, change the traditional school song and donate a percentage of athletic department revenue to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The letter said it was sent on behalf of the Longhorn “student athlete body.” It said the football team will participate in all required team activities ahead of the upcoming season, but players would not aid in recruiting future players or participate in alumni events.
The two-page, unsigned note posted on social media accounts of dozens of Longhorns athletes noted the school's motto of “What starts here changes the world." It said the group was moved to issue its call for campus changes after protests erupted nationwide following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.
“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 statement said.
“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 by taking action to make Texas more comfortable and inclusive for the black athletes and black community that has so fervently support this program,” the letter said.
Dozens of football players marched with coach Tom Herman last week from the campus stadium to the state Capitol in honor of Floyd.
The players said they want the school to address their concerns with campus action or a plan by the start of fall semester on Aug. 26. It wasn't immediately clear if the group has a leader or spokesman.
“I am always willing to have meaningful conversations regarding any concerns our student-athletes have,” athletic director Chris Del Conte said. “We will do the same in this situation and look forward to having those discussions.”
The letter said the players want the school to rename several campus buildings named after state and school officials with ties to Texas era of Jim Crow laws and segregation.
The players also want Texas, which has one of the wealthiest athletic departments in the country, to contribute 0.5% of annual revenue, slightly more than $1 million on based on most recent figures, to black organizations and the Black Lives Matter movement.
The letter also called for Texas to stop using its traditional song “The Eyes of Texas,” which has been criticized for its connection to minstrel shows with characters in blackface in the early 1900s. The song is regularly sung at nearly every organized campus event and players in all sports gather as team to sing it after every game.
The group also wants a portion of Royal-Memorial Stadium to be named after Julius Whittier, the first black varsity football player at Texas. Whittier, who died in 2018, was a freshman on the 1969 national championship team, the last all-white squad team to win a national title. Whittier didn't play that season because freshmen were ineligible under NCAA rules.
Texas has previously attempted to address issues surrounding some of the Confederate figures and racist policies in its history.
In 2010, the school removed the name of a former Ku Klux Klan leader from a dormitory and in 2015 removed a statue of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis. In 2017, the school removed several more statutes of Confederate figures, including Gen. Robert E. Lee.