Longhorns supporters threaten university, players over 'Eyes of Texas' controversy

Chuck Schilken
·3 min read
Texas players sing "The Eyes of Texas" after a game against West Virginia on Nov. 7 in Austin.
Texas players sing "The Eyes of Texas" after a game against West Virginia on Nov. 7 in Austin. (Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

Texas linebacker DeMarvion Overshown said he received death threats.

Safety Caden Sterns said alumni told him and his teammates they'd never work in Texas.

All because they refused to sing a song that was historically performed at minstrel shows that featured performers in blackface and was said to be inspired by a quote by Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

That song, "The Eyes of Texas," also happens to be the university's alma mater. It's a Longhorns tradition for athletes to gather in a group after games and sing the song together.

In the wake of the protests against social injustice that occurred in the aftermath of George Floyd's death last year, several Texas athletes cited the song's racist roots in stating they would no longer help out with recruiting prospects or at alumni events unless the school replaced the song as its alma mater.

When the university decided to keep the song but educate the public on its history, many players decided they simply would not participate in the postgame tradition. After one game last season, just one player remained on the field while the song played, according to the Texas Tribune, which also said the school's band did not play "The Eyes of Texas" after the final two games of the year.

The media organization reported that hundreds of influential alumni and donors responded with threatening emails, telling the university that if the song and its accompanying tradition go away, so will their money.

"The Eyes of Texas is non-negotiable," one graduate wrote.

"UT needs rich donors who love The Eyes of Texas more than they need one crop of irresponsible and uninformed students or faculty who won't do what they are paid to do," another wrote.

Sterns shared the Texas Tribune article on Twitter and added his own experience.

"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.

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Overshown shared: "When we put out the statement, I received many hateful things including death threats! ... No where in my NIL does it say 'you have to sing' to play here."

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He added: "After reading the emails..it proves our point that the issue was always bigger than the song but they twisted the narrative of our argument and made it something completely different."

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The university formed a committee in October to examine the song's history and the controversy surrounding it.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.