LINCOLN, NEBRASKA—The University of Nebraska’s mascot has gotten a makeover. Herbie Husker has long been depicted as an overall-clad good old boy with a mop of blond hair, an oversized red cowboy hat, a football under one arm, and an ear of corn sticking out of his back pocket. And then there’s his signature gesture. Since 1974, logos of the mascot have shown Herbie with his left thumb and forefinger circled together in the sign for white supremacy.
“Herbie is not a white supremacist!” protested university spokesperson Emily Salazar. “He is giving the ‘OK’ sign, and has been for more than 47 years.”
The controversy started when various concerned citizens alerted university officials to the fact that Herbie’s gesture is being used by some far right groups to support their viewpoints. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), what was once an innocent show of support has been co-opted as a racist hand sign.
“Basically, an imageboard website thought it would be funny in 2017 to say the hand gesture is actually a hate symbol representing ‘wp’ or ‘white power’,” explained ADL representative Dave Itsby. “The white supremacists got wind of it and latched on, putting their beliefs and perceived needs ahead of all others and ruining what was once inclusive and joyful. So, the usual.”
University officials have now changed Herbie’s hand gesture to the less offensive “number one” pose, featuring a raised index finger. Also considered were a closed fist, sign of the horns, and the shaka. These options were rejected due to the fear of affiliation with protests, a love of Satan, and the appropriation of Polynesian culture.
“White supremacists ruin everything!” said athletic director, Trev Alberts. “We had to change the gesture to be ‘politically correct’ but how long before an index finger in the air suffers the same fate? I’d like to give a different finger to the group who made this change necessary.”