Conflict raging over Longhorns' 'The Eyes of Texas' school song
AUSTIN, TX - A controversy is growing at the University of Texas over a school song that dates back more than 100 years.
A debate has been raging over the school's use of "The Eyes of Texas," a tune that would often be sung after athletic events and has historical ties with the school going back to the 1900s. In recent weeks, some players have refused to sing or even stand for the song, and the Longhorn Band now refuses to play it due to its ties to racist minstrel shows.
The school says it is not banning the song, despite the protests from players and musicians.
“Standing for ‘The Eyes of Texas’ is a statement of something – school spirit, loyalty, solidarity,” University of Texas law professor emeritus David Anderson told the Associated Press. “But deliberately not standing, or leaving the field, is a statement just as surely. It’s protected speech.”
The song was written back to 1903 and is sung to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." The song has been a mainstay at the school for decades and is often used at graduation ceremonies, weddings and even funerals.
Despite that, the song has long been a sore spot for minorities. The title itself is taken from a saying by a former school president who had echoed comments from Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and it was routinely performed by musicians in blackface at minstrel shows.
Texas officials opted to keep the song after a flood of feedback earlier this year. But the issue resurfaced when the Longhorns football team didn't stay on the field for the game at its first two home games this season. Resentment from fans boiled over two weeks ago when the team again left the field before the Texas-Oklahoma game in Dallas.
After that, Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte said he expects the team to "stand in unison" during the song. Law experts told the AP that the university would be limited in any attempts to force players to sing or stay on the field for a song they don't support.
“It’s irrelevant whether the general public would not find it controversial. One value the First Amendment protects is dissent,” said Tyler Valeska, of the First Amendment Clinic at Cornell Law School. “We don’t want the government telling people what something means to them when and for what reasons.”
It was first reported Wednesday a large number of Longhorns Band members now refused to play the song. The band was not slated to play at this weekend's home game, but Texas President Jay Hartzell said the song will still be played at events while the school looks to "join together around our song, which has been so positive for so many Longhorns over the past 120 years.”
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