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UT Austin president responds to Longhorn football players' demands

UT Austin president responds to Longhorn football players' demands

UT Austin football stadium aerial view
UT's interim president responded to requests made by football players last week. Photo by dszc/Getty Images

On June 12, members of the Texas Longhorns football team joined other students and athletes to request changes to the University of Texas at Austin. The demands, outlined in an unsigned, two-page letter, highlight the school's racist past and racially insensitive traditions. 

Among the requests were renaming Robert Lee Moore Hall, Painter Hall, Littlefield Hall, James Hogg Auditorium; donating .5 percent of Texas Athletics' multimillion-dollar earnings to Black organizations and Black Lives Matter; and creating outreach program for inner-city youth in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.

"As ambassadors, it is our duty to utilize our voice and role as leaders in the community to push for change to the benefit of the entire UT community," the statement read. "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 players said that while they will still attend practice, training sessions, and games, they will not take place in donor-related functions or recruiting events until their demands are met. 

On Monday, June 15, UT interim president Jay Hartzell responded to students' requests in a letter entitled, "Listening closely and moving forward together." In the statement, Hartzell said he was taking the upcoming weeks to have conversations with students, student athletes, leaders of Black student organizations, and community members to hear their concerns directly. 

"Working together, we will create a plan this summer to address these issues, do better for our students and help overcome racism," he wrote.

In a moment such as this, when the nation is reckoning with 400 years of systematic racism, one of the most recognizable teams in college football — scratch that, all of football — taking such a stand garnered notable attention. It also garnered its share of backlash, especially when it came to removing the school song, "The Eyes of Texas."

The catchy tune is ubiquitous at UT games and functions, and it even bellows out across campus courtesy of the UT Tower on special days. It can also trace its roots back to Robert E. Lee and minstrel shows that members of the Texas Cowboys once performed in black face.