Husker hoops fans OK with Unity Anthem as long as it doesn’t replace national anthem

Husker fans say they are fine with 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' being played at basketball games as long as the Star-Spangled Banner doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – If you haven’t been to a Husker basketball game this season, you might not be aware of the new anthem that is played before games.

Before the playing of the song, Nebraska athletic director Trev Alberts appears on the Jumbotron at Pinnacle Bank Arena, flanked by head men’s and women’s basketball coaches Fred Hoiberg and Amy Williams.

“Both of our basketball programs at Nebraska have brought together young men and women from all over the world and in very different backgrounds to form a team,” Hoiberg says.

“As head coaches, we are committed to providing each of them a welcoming and inclusive environment so that they can fully enjoy their college experience,” Williams continues.

“As a show of unity and education, we present ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,'” says Alberts before the playing of the song.

According to the NAACP website, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ also referred to as the Unity Anthem or the Black National Anthem, was written by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson in 1900 as a call for liberty for Black Americans.

The song was later adopted by the NAACP in 1919 and was used prominently as a rallying cry during the Civil Rights Movement.

Governor Pete Ricketts recently spoke out against the playing of the song at Husker basketball games.

In a statement published to his website, Ricketts said:

“There is only one national anthem for the United States: It’s the Star Spangled Banner. It’s a symbol of our national unity and it’s the only anthem for America that should be played before Husker games.  If athletic programs are going to play other ‘anthems’ before games, what has historically been a moment of patriotic pride will become nothing more than a series of political gestures that will divide Nebraskans based on their identity rather than bringing us together.”

Before Tuesday’s women’s basketball season opener against Maine, Channel 8 spoke with Husker fans, who say they are fine with the Unity Anthem being played at basketball games as long as the Star-Spangled Banner doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

“The national anthem represents us all,” Ken Van Zandbergen said. “It certainly represents all veterans. I’m a veteran myself, and I certainly want to hear the national anthem there. The other anthem is fine as long as we hear the national anthem, it because i think that means everything to Americans.”

Husker fan Leroy Svec says he was a bit troubled when he attended a recent exhibition game and heard ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ played before the national anthem.

“They played ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ first, which was a little concerning, because the national flags were out there at that time and so forth,” Svec said.

The order of the two songs has since been reversed.

“I’m glad they changed the order to get it national anthem first, honor the flag, have the flag exit the auditorium and then run the other anthem,” Svec said.

Dr. Lawrence Chatters, the Senior Associate Athletic Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at UNL, explains that the National Association of Basketball Coaches issued a letter to coaches across the country, to play the song before games.

At Nebraska, Husker coaches and players felt it was the right move.

“The coach, in concert with the student-athletes and everyone involved made the decision that we would play that song prior to our games as well as the fact that it’s a very positive and unifying song,” Chatters said.

As for the governor’s criticism of the song being played at games?

“We have made a decision here to play a very positive and uplifting song prior to our game to support our student-athletes and bring people together in unity and inclusion,” Chatters said. “I think that’s a really positive thing that our state can look at and be proud of that we do in this athletic department.”

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