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Woke Culture to University Mascot: “OK Is Not OK”


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Woke culture strikes again.

This time its victim is Herbie the Husker, the mascot for the University of Nebraska. It turns out the vintage mascot is highly offensive. What’s his unpardonable sin, you might ask. It’s his naughty left hand.

Here’s a picture of the 1974 media guide where Herbie’s left hand first appeared: (Caution image contains highly offensive content to readers who may be highly offendable).

Gasp….you saw it correct. Herbie is making the “OK” gesture with his left hand.

In 1974, OK was OK, but not today. Actually, OK was OK until about 2017, according to the Anti Defamation League:

“[i]n 2017, the “okay” hand gesture acquired a new and different significance thanks to a hoax by members of the website 4chan to falsely promote the gesture as a hate symbol, claiming that the gesture represented the letters “wp,” for “white power.” The “okay” gesture hoax was merely the latest in a series of similar 4chan hoaxes using various innocuous symbols; in each case, the hoaxers hoped that the media and liberals would overreact by condemning a common image as white supremacist.”

But the ultimate irony is the hoax worked. The goofball trolls got an overreaction.

Around 2019, some white supremacist saw the left’s reaction and decided to use the gesture. And that chain of events is what the Anti Defamation League cites as its justification to add the OK gesture to its official Hate Symbols Database.

So let’s make sure we’re following the story that landed Herbie in hot water. It started as a hoax concocted as a bad joke by a couple of trolls to dupe liberals. That bad joke gets even worse when a couple more idiots start flashing it as a symbol of white supremacy. And then, as if the joke wasn’t bad enough, the Anti Defamation League reacts to the compounded stupidity with even more stupidity, i.e. by posting the innocuous gesture to its official wall of shame. No wonder Herbie was doomed. Poor guy.

You would have thought at least one rational adult could have interjected to save Herbie’s hand. If we’re going to butcher a logo that has sentimental value dating back five decades it should make sense, right? There is nothing about the origins of Herbie that link him to racist causes. Think of the precedent this makes. An idiot can turn anything innocuous into a hate symbol, and then all we’ll be left with are mascots as pathetic as the decision makers that won’t end the madness.

So what has happened to Herbie’s left hand?

Herbie’s left hand now makes the well-known “We’re No. 1” sign with his index finger raised.

Here’s what he looks like now:

 

 

That doesn’t seem like much of a solution. For Herbie to claim “We’re No. 1”, when the Huskers haven’t been ranked No. 1 in over 2 decades, seems just as delusional as someone claiming OK is a hate symbol. For my part, I think Herbie was being more honest when he was gesturing, “We’re OK.”

Now don’t get upset with me Husker fans. I know Nebraska football was a dominant powerhouse in the 90s and I hope to see that glory return someday. You’ve suffered long enough. But I’m more interested in the poor decision-making that led to the logo change.

Here’s a couple interesting scoops behind the headlines on this story, as quoted by the AP:

“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.”

The part of this quote that caught my attention is the University’s apparel provider prompted the decision in 2020. Two observations. First, it seems to me like that’s the tail wagging the dog. Shouldn’t there have been a mass outcry from the Husker fans or its athletes to cause a logo change, not its weak-kneed apparel provider?

Second, Adidas was Nebraska’s official apparel provider in 2020 (and still is). It appears Adidas was fully onboard the woke wagon by then. Not only did it push Nebraska to butcher Herbie’s hand, but Adidas also separated with its global creative director, Paul Gaudio, a 20- year veteran, around the same time.

According to reporting at the time by pop culture site Complex.com:

“Adidas would not give a reason for his leaving the company, but the news comes two days after a controversial comment Gaudio left on a Complex Instagram post. Beneath a photo of Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of murdering two protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the Adidas creative director wrote a comment that some interpreted as sympathizing with Rittenhouse… “He is also a victim here,” Gaudio wrote. “He’s a kid, who raised him? Who taught him? Who gave him a gun? Not excusing him by any means…but the adults who radicalized him and enabled him should be punished.”

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No doubt many will disagree with Gaudio’s rationale, but it’s hard to argue against his conclusion that Kyle was also a victim at some level. The kid was jailed for 87 days, crushed by national media, and vilified by woke rage before being exonerated at trial.

Putting these pieces together, Adidas was panicking in 2020 after the start of the riots. It distanced itself from Gaudio, Herbie’s hand, and no doubt others who it perceived as bad for its brand. For that, I suppose we shouldn’t fault it, but it does show there is no courage in any of these decisions. For that, we need not support them.

The reality is woke-washing is a bad idea, even for Adidas. It fuels more irrationality and may not even convince the people it tries to appease. In 2020, efforts by Adidas to show solidarity with the black community were roundly rejected by that community. The Wall Street Journal covered a number of complaints its black employees had against Adidas, including lacking any representation on its then board of directors and executive boards.

If woke-washing is a bad idea, we need to replace it with a good one. How about the next time something or someone is accused of being associated with something evil we look at the facts to see if it’s true. If it’s not, we don’t react to it. If it is, we do something about it. I know that requires uncommon sense and even less common courage, but isn’t it worth a shot?

If we don’t try we’ll have certain people in this country redefining our culture and language to the point we can’t interact without offending someone all the time. Think about it. You can no longer gesture “OK” again without risking being offensive. That’s not right, even if you are left.

Now back to Herbie.

So what’s going to happen at the University of Nebraska when those goofball trolls on 4chan add the “We’re No. 1” hand gesture as the next bad joke to be flashed by white supremacists? After all, that’s really what white supremacists believe.

If that happens and Nebraska’s branding director calls me in a panic for insight, I’ll tell her to reposition Herbie so he’s shrugging his shoulders handless.

I’m no artist, but I’m thinking something along these lines:

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Who knows, Nebraska might find it safer to replace Herbie with this orange and purple emoticon. Who could possibly be offended by this cute, handless, gender and racial neutral creature of fantasyland. I can hear the sold out Memorial Stadium ferociously chanting now: “Here we go emoticon, here we go, bam bam. Here we go emoticon, here we go, bam bam.” Think of the fear that will strike in the hearts of its opponents.

All joking aside, we love you guys and gals of Husker nation because you’re part of our great Nation. And I suspect this type of woke nonsense bothers you as much as it does me.

Racism is stupid. Making “OK” an official symbol of hate is stupid, too. Low effort thinking never leads to anything good.

Before I wrap this up, I have one final parting question for you (and please do comment below because I want to know): what clothing brand(s) can we wear now?

Nike is out.

Adidas is out.

Gosh darn it, even Carhartt is out. That’s the one that hurts me to lose.



 

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