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Texas Longhorns players said Wednesday they were ordered to stay on the field while “The Eyes of Texas” played after their games this season, to purportedly appease angry donors who were angry at the backlash toward the school’s spirit song since the summer.
DeMarvion Overshown and another unnamed player on the 2020 team told the Texas Tribune they were told that not participating in the postgame festivities could alter their future job prospects.
“They said y’all don’t have to sing it. But y’all have to stay on the field. Y’all have to go over there and at least show fans appreciation for coming out and watching you guys play,” Overshown told the newspaper.
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“It was really eye opening,” he said. “These are some high-power people that come to see you play and they can keep you from getting a job in the state of Texas. It was shocking that they said that. To this day I still think back to the moment. They really used that as a threat to get us to try to do what they wanted us to do.”
The anonymous player pinned the threat on athletic director Chris Del Conte and then-head coach Tom Herman.
“He kept saying these guys provide this for you. … He was mentioning, ‘We have donors talking about pulling out money from the south end zone [stadium addition project], stopping their donations,’” he said.
Del Conte denied to the paper any such comment was made, telling the Texas Tribune in a statement that he never heard from any alumni or donors about their furor over the “Eyes of Texas” issues. He added that he was “happy” to talk to anyone to let them know “this is not true.”
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Herman has not commented on the issues.
Former defensive back Caden Sterns alluded to the issues in a tweet Tuesday.
“My teammates and I got threatened by some alumni that we would have to find jobs outside of Texas if we didn’t participate,” he wrote.
The Texas Tribune published emails showing donors and alumni threatening to rescind their contributions to the school if the players didn’t acknowledge the spirit song.
Texas president Jay Hartzell released a statement defending players.
People who target our students with hateful views do not represent the values of the Longhorn community,” Hartzell said in a statement. “A few extremist views in the sample of emails the Texas Tribune reported on do not speak for the 540,000 proud Longhorn alumni who actively support our students and university. Out of the many emails I received this fall, a very small number included comments that were truly abhorrent and hateful. I categorically reject them, and they bear no influence on any aspect of our decision-making.
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“The fact that we don’t all agree on our school song doesn’t mean that we don’t all belong. Next week, the Eyes of Texas History Committee will release its report. Equipped with a common set of facts, we will then continue the conversation about our song. Having spoken to students and faculty on the committee, I truly believe we can be a model for how communities address complex problems and move forward together.”
“The Eyes of Texas” has been accused of having racial undertones and was a source of controversy for Texas throughout the season amid a summer of racial tension in the U.S. Scrutiny over the song revealed that the title was taken from a favored saying by a former school president who was mimicking Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and the song was performed in the 1900s by musicians in blackface at minstrel shows.
During the 2020 season, the band at one point refused to play the song and some players refused to stay out on the field while the song played.
In January, when new head coach Steve Sarkisian was welcomed at his introductory press conference, he said the song would remain a part of the culture with him in charge.
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“I know this much, ‘The Eyes of Texas’ is our school song,” Sarkisian said at the time. “We’re going to sing that song. We’re going to sing that proudly.”