Nebraska Changes Cartoon Mascot to Eliminate Ties to White Supremacist Hand Gesture

Erin WalshJanuary 29, 2022

CHAMPAIGN, IL - SEPTEMBER 21: The Nebraska Cornhuskers mascot is seen before the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Champaign, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is making a change to its cartoon mascot, Herbie Husker, to eliminate confusion about the meaning of a hand gesture he does that has been connected to white supremacy, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).

Originally, the mascot made an "OK" sign with his left hand. The mascot's index finger and thumb formed a closed circle, which some hate groups have used as a sign for white power in recent years. 

The mascot now makes a "We're No. 1" gesture with his index finger raised, per the Associated Press. 

Chris Creamer @sportslogosnet

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are updating their "Herbie Husker" logo to avoid an alleged white supremacist gesture.<br><br>Story here: <a href="https://t.co/NVy9ByHR1n">https://t.co/NVy9ByHR1n</a> <a href="https://t.co/fZZKYi1REF">pic.twitter.com/fZZKYi1REF</a>

"The concern about the hand gesture was brought to our attention by our apparel provider and others, and we decided to move forward with a revised Herbie Husker logo," Nebraska Athletics said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The process of changing the logo began in 2020, and we updated our brand guidelines in July of 2021. The revised logo is now the only Herbie Husker mark available to licensees."

According to Jordan Pascale of the Lincoln Journal-Star, the original gesture's meaning was brought to the attention of the Lonna Henrichs, the athletic department’s licensing and branding director, weeks after George Floyd was murdered by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. 

Floyd's murder and several other similar cases prompted protests around the United States, including some where white supremacy groups flashed the "OK" hand gesture, Pascale noted. 

Henrichs said, per Pascale:

"That hand gesture could, in some circles, represent something that does not represent what Nebraska athletics is about. We just didn't even want to be associated with portraying anything that somebody might think, you know, that it means white power. 
"We made that change as quick as we could."

 The Anti-Defamation League added the "OK" hand gesture to its Hate Symbols Database two years ago, noting “particular caution must be used when evaluating this symbol.”

Nebraska is one of several schools to make changes to its mascot for such reasons. One such example saw the University of Illinois drop the Chief Illiniwek logo in 2007, though they are still called the Illini, because it was considered offensive to Native Americans.

Several professional sports teams have also undergone name changes for sensitivity reasons, such as the Washington Football Team and Cleveland Guardians.