As part of a larger, conference-wide campaign, the Nebraska football team will wear stickers on their helmets paying tribute to George Flippin, the first Black football player for the University of Nebraska.
Those stickers will be debuted this weekend during the season-opener against Ohio State, and they’ll be worn all year, a spokesperson for the athletic department confirmed. Ohio State football players will wear back-of-helmet stickers that state “Equality” and debut a specially designed pre-game t-shirt as an additional show of support.
— Derek Peterson (@DrPeteyHV) October 24, 2020
Flippin became NU’s first black athlete in 1891. As a tailback and defensive tackle, he lettered in his final three seasons. At the time, he was only the fifth black athlete nationally at a predominantly white university, according to Arthur Ashe in his book, Hard Road to Glory. Flippin played basketball as well, and set NU records in track and field (shot put, hammer throw) and won multiple championships as a wrestler.
Flippin was born in Port Isabelle, Ohio, in 1868. He was voted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 1974, 45 years after his death at age 61. In 2015, Flippin was inducted into the Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame.
Earlier this summer, the Minority Student-Athlete Collective, a social advocacy group on campus, called on the University and the athletic department to honor Flippin’s legacy. The group delivered a letter to the University and shared their asks on social media with the hashtag “Legacy Over Image.”
— Sammi Haiby (@SHaiby_4) August 6, 2020
As an athletic department, Nebraska has been having discussions about what to potentially add to its athletics uniforms for months now. When the Big Ten conference announced the postponement of fall sports until the spring, those conversations were tabled, but they were returned to when the league announced that football and basketball would be back on.
Central to those conversations has been Diversity and Inclusion director DaWon Baker, who has helped to organize and aid Nebraska’s various teams this summer in addressing social justice issues and racial inequality.
The University also recently provided student-athletes with t-shirts that say “Black Lives Matter” that can be worn during practice or warm-ups. It’s unclear if Nebraska football will wear any such shirts during its pregame activities.
The Big Ten’s campaign, “United as One” is among several conference-wide Equality Coalition initiatives dedicated to constructively and collectively recognizing and eliminating racism and hate in our society by creating resources for inclusion, empowerment, and accountability. The Equality Coalition, also called the Big Ten’s Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition, was formed this summer.
“All things are possible in the Big Ten when we unite as one,” said Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren in a release. “I am humbled and deeply appreciative of how our 14 member institutions have communicated, collaborated and committed to develop a conference-wide campaign focused on creating equality and equity in our society.”
Representatives from Nebraska include women’s basketball coach Amy Williams, men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg, Baker, Chancellor Ronnie Green, Deputy Athletic Directors John Johnson and Pat Logsdon, track junior Sadio Fenner, volleyball junior Kayla Caffey, softball junior Courtney Wallace, wrestling head coach Mark Manning, and former baseball player Shawn Buchanan.
Though Warren has taken flak from all sides this summer for his and the conference’s handling of fall sports, Warren, the first Black commissioner of a Power Five conference, has done well by his peers to keep racial inequality and social justice issues at the forefront of conversations around the league.
“Commissioner Warren’s just been very vocal about his stance on this,” Fenner told Hail Varsity. “He wants to make it a safer environment for everybody regardless of your race, your ethnicity, your sexual orientation, your background in general, which I think is also really empowering to see that. It makes me proud to be a part of the Big Ten when our commissioner is making such an effort to try and better everybody around him.”
Derek is a newbie on the Hail Varsity staff covering Husker athletics. In college, he was best known as ‘that guy from Twitter.’ He has covered a Sugar Bowl, a tennis national championship and almost everything in between (except an NCAA men’s basketball tournament game… *tears*). In his spare time, he can be found arguing with literally anyone about sports.