Nebraska changes mascot hand gesture to avoid white supremacist ties
LINCOLN, Neb. – The University of Nebraska has changed its comic book mascot Herbie Husker to eliminate confusion over what a hand gesture means to some people connecting with white supremacy.
In the original mascot depiction, which debuted in the early 1970s, Herbie’s left hand made the “OK” sign with the index finger and thumb forming a closed circle. In recent years, some hate groups have come to use the gesture as a sign of white power – three straight fingers make a W, and the circle formed next to an extended finger makes a P.
Herbie’s left hand now makes the well-known “We’re No. 1” sign with his index finger raised.
“The concern over the hand gesture was brought to our attention by our apparel supplier and others, and we have decided to move forward with a revised Herbie Husker logo,” Nebraska Athletics said in a statement. communicated to the Associated Press. “The logo modification process began in 2020 and we updated our brand guidelines in July 2021. The revised logo is now the only Herbie Husker brand available to licensees.”
The change was first reported by online news site Flatwater Free Press.
The Anti-Defamation League lists the OK hand gesture in its database of hate symbols and explains how the altered meaning appeared on an internet message board five years ago.
The ADL’s description: “A running hand gesture claimed by a 2017 4chan trolling campaign had been appropriated as a symbol meaning ‘white power’. Used by many on the right – not just extremists – in intended to troll liberals, the symbol ended up being used by genuine white supremacists as well. Caution should be exercised in evaluating use cases for this symbol.”
Herbie’s overhaul was so subtle that Scott Strunc of Omaha, owner of one of Huskers’ largest merchandise stores, said he didn’t notice it until it was shown to him by a journalist.
Strunc said he had no idea the OK sign could have a different meaning. He says he understands why the university made the switch.
“It’s just the world we live in,” Strunc said.