LINCOLN — Nebraska men’s and women’s basketball players aim this weekend to convey positive messages about a negative situation.
The Husker men expect to wear T-shirts that say “Hate will never win” before the game Saturday against Rutgers.
Men’s coach Tim Miles, women’s coach Amy Williams and two players said Friday at a press conference that they will use a white nationalist student’s hateful videos as motivation to send their own messages embracing love, diversity and perseverance.
“It makes me very proud of them,” Miles said.
The responses came late this week to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln student, Daniel Kleve, whose videos espouse white nationalism.
Williams, who said one of her players has at least one class with Kleve, said her players “just want to continue to be the example for our students” by showing that those of diverse backgrounds can use differences to succeed together.
Williams said the women haven’t decided whether to connect to the men’s messages or do their own thing. The women’s game Sunday in Lincoln against Wisconsin already is scheduled to promote cancer awareness.
Evan Taylor, a senior guard, said the team this week talked about sending a collective message: love over hate.
“Honestly,” he said of the public, “we hope they will get behind us.”
Glynn Watson, a junior point guard, said he wants to feel safe on campus. And while the players are OK, there are students who don’t feel so secure, Watson said.
Miles said the players have opened themselves to the criticism that they should “stick to sports.” They are thoughtful, empathetic young men, he said. “It gives me goosebumps right now just talking about it,” he said.
Miles said in an interview Friday that the team rejected a proposal to boycott a game over Kleve’s views. UNL and NU administrators so far have resisted calls to expel Kleve, citing the First Amendment as protecting hateful speech.
Besides wearing T-shirts, the players plan to make a short video for the Rutgers game with the help of the multicultural affairs office.
The players began tweeting “hate will never win” Thursday night. Miles responded to the tweets: “I love these young men!”
Miles said he sensed after a Tuesday night road win in Minnesota that his players were subdued. They wanted to meet and did so on the airplane.
He said they were upset over Kleve’s videos, which make light of Martin Luther King Jr. and say the Founding Fathers didn’t care about what Mexicans or blacks had to say.
Kleve was involved in the conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year in which white nationalists protested the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. In one video, Kleve suggests that he relishes violence.
But Kleve, 23, has said in an interview that his views on violence are only philosophical and not to be taken literally.
The videos have generated protest across UNL. About 300 students turned out for a rally Wednesday to oppose hate speech. Miles attended the rally. Some students called for Kleve to be kicked out of school. Kleve, of Norfolk, Nebraska, remains a biochemistry student at UNL.
Miles said the vote was lopsided against a boycott. The players nevertheless wanted to participate in the discussion of racism, Miles said.
“And they’ve endured some of that, and their parents and grandparents have endured that,” he said.
NU President Hank Bounds and other administrators spoke to the players Thursday. Bounds said in a statement Friday that the players have shown “remarkable maturity and grace. I could not be prouder of these young men.”
In a statement, Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos said, “I fully support the positive and unified message our men’s basketball team is sharing. I’m proud of our student-athletes for taking a stance against hate, prejudice and racism, and I want them to know that the safety and well-being of all of our student-athletes is our top priority.”
Board of Regents Chairman Rob Schafer said in a statement that the regents strongly reject Kleve’s comments and that the student’s “abhorrent views are not consistent with the values of civility, respect and inclusiveness that the University of Nebraska holds dear.”
Also Friday, the university held a “listening session” for students to discuss the matter at the Nebraska Union. About 100 students and others attended.
UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green, Executive Vice Chancellor Donde Plowman and other administrators led the meeting.
Referring to Kleve’s statements, Green said, “The ideology is wrong. The ideology is hateful. We abhor the ideology.”
Green noted that the matter affects everyone in the room differently.
A microphone was passed around so students could speak. Some expressed concerns about their safety and wanted to know what the university was going to do.
Green said people are monitoring the situation. He said there’s a difference between a general threat and a specific threat, and that line hasn’t been crossed yet. There are not grounds to dismiss Kleve, he said.
Raelynn Burkinshaw, a freshman, said after the meeting that she felt good about some of the things the administrators said.
KaDeja Sangoyele, a junior psychology major, was less pleased. She said: “I don’t feel anything will change.”