Fight Song for UNH Hockey Team Banned as Potentially Racist
“Black Betty,” a rock song used to rally fans at University of New Hampshire hockey games for about a decade, is no more.
Athletic Director Marty Scarano told the campus newspaper, The New Hampshire, the 1977 song by the band Ram Jam was banned because it is “theoretically racist.”
The NAACP deemed the song offensive to Black women when it was initially released, nearly three decades ago. According to the Concord Monitor, the university has received intermittent complaints about it for years.
Two years ago, a student group that studied diversity at the school said it should be banned. Scarano said a more recent complaint pushed him to outlaw it, but he did say who complained.
The song has been played at the starts of the second and third periods of UNH hockey games for more than a decade, according to a school Web site. Complaints have also come in to the Hockey East Association, the collegiate league where UNH plays. Hockey East spokesman Noah Smith says league members have had “a couple of discussions” with UNH officials and decided the song was “probably inappropriate.”
But Smith says Hockey East couldn’t force UNH or any other school to stop playing a song.
Student reaction on a campus where hockey is king have ranged from indifferent to angry. “Save Black Betty” T-shirts and banners have appeared at home games and someone has started a Web site called FreeBlackBetty.com. Blacks made up just 1.2 percent of the undergraduate student population in the 2004-2005 academic year.
Senior Kelly Vogel says she didn’t hear about the flap until a story appeared in The New Hampshire soon after students returned from winter break Jan. 24. People talked about it for a few days until interest dropped off, she says.
“I haven’t seen any rallies or anything,” she says.
“It’s just a pump-up song,” says sophomore Brittany Clement. “I never knew about the lyrics because I just associated it with hockey.”
Sophomore Matt Connors is head of the Wild-Ice-Cats, the UNH hockey fan club. He says he is disappointed by the ban and plans to propose that the song be played without its lyrics.
But two members of the school’s Black Student Union are happy the song is gone. Senior Stefanie Hauck and junior Ola Akinwumi say Blacks were considered inferior in the United States when the song was written, and the song has no connection to athletics or hockey.
“If you look at it, basically the whole audience at these games is Caucasian,” Hauck says. “For them to be singing a song like ‘Black Betty,’ it doesn’t make sense. It is kind of derogatory.”
— Associated Press
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