The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has made a minor, but significant change to its cartoon mascot Herbie Husker – his left hand now has an outstretched index finger showing “We’re #1.”
Since Herbie made his first appearance in 1974, his left hand has made the OK sign – the index finger and thumb in a circle and the other 3 fingers sticking up – but some hate groups now use it to signify the letters w-p for white power.
The Anti-Defamation League now lists the gesture as a hate sign, but with the explanation the gesture is entirely innocuous and harmless in most contexts.
UNL Director of Licensing Lonna Henrichs says the white power context was brought to its attention by an apparel provider and others, leading to immediate discussions on what to do.
Henrichs told the Omaha World-Herald since the OK gesture means something in some circles totally at odds with what Nebraska athletics is about, Herbie was changed to avoid any perception the school even tolerates white power.
The process of revising Herbie’s look started in 2020 and the “we’re #1” version is now the only one available under the school’s updated brand guidelines adopted last summer.
Herbie also now matches Nebraska’s other mascot, Lil’ Red, who’s had his index finger signaling #1 since his introduction in 1993.
This isn’t the first time Herbie has changed. The university modernized his look in 2003, replacing his white shirt and blue overalls with a red polo shirt and blue jeans.
That was his look when he was named National Mascot of the Year in 2005, but by the end of the decade fan support for Herbie’s traditional outfit led a return to the overalls.