The hand gesture that the University of Nebraska's mascot has been making since 1974 has been changed after that gesture took on new meaning about five years ago. For decades the Herbie Husker mascot formed an "OK" hand gesture by placing his thumb and forefinger together to form an O. But some hate groups adopted the gesture as a sign for white power, with the three straight fingers being read as a W and the circle and wrist next to them fashioning a P, reports the Flatwater Free Press. The mascot now shows his index finger raised in a "number one" gesture.
The Anti-Defamation League states that while "use of the okay symbol in most contexts is entirely innocuous and harmless ... In 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.' Used by many on the right—not just extremists—for the purpose of trolling liberals, the symbol eventually came to be used by actual white supremacists as well," it continues, per the AP.
CNN quotes the university as saying "the concern about the hand gesture was brought to our attention by our apparel provider and others" and so the school began reworking the logo in 2020. "The revised logo is now the only Herbie Husker mark available to licensees," it notes. The Flatwater Free Press' article explains how the Husker mascot has evolved over the years and shares plenty of visuals. Check it out here. (Read more University of Nebraska stories.)