SportsPulse: It was nothing but respect between Texas Tech and Michigan State after the Red Raiders knocked off the Spartans in their Final Four matchup.
MINNEAPOLIS — Well before tipoff at the NCAA basketball championship Monday night, Texas Tech fans will thrust their hands into the air for their “Guns Up’’ salute.
The hand signal is a school tradition that has fueled celebration and controversy and continues to draw support from Texas Tech’s basketball players, even one recently affected by gun violence.
Brandone Francis, a guard for Texas Tech, said Sunday he was grieving as third-seeded Texas Tech prepared to play top-seeded Virginia in the championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Francis has been mourning the death of Nipsey Hussle, a rapper and friend of Francis’s family who was shot to death in Los Angeles May 31.
But Francis, a senior from the Dominican Republic, said he had no objection to the “Guns Up’’ salute, when index fingers and thumbs extended upward to create the shape of a pistol.
“It’s part of school history, tradition,’’ Francis said. “But when it comes down to the streets and the real guns that are affecting our world, I’m not OK with that.’’
Avery Benson, a guard for Texas Tech, said, “It was a devastating loss for Brandone and his family.’’ But Benson also said the “Guns Up’’ tradition should not viewed as support for gun violence.
“When we say ‘Get your guns up,’ there’s no relative meaning to hurting anybody with an actual gun,’’ he said. “It’s just a saying we have.’’
The tradition developed as a response to a rival school, the University of Texas, and the Texas Longhorns’ hand gesture and call of “Hook ‘em horns.’’ Texas Tech’s mascot, Red Raider, often fires up the crowd with the “Guns Up’’ salute. And after Texas Tech beat Michigan State 61-51 Saturday in the national semifinal, Texas Tech coach Chris Beard walked toward cheering Red Raiders fans and acknowledged them with a “Guns Up’’ salute.
Asked on Sunday about people who might politicize the gesture, Beard said, “We’re trying to win Monday night. No comment on that one.’’
In 2013, Michael Grant, an alumnus of Texas Tech, complained about then-Texas Tech President President Duane Nellis using the phrase “Go Texas Tech, and Guns Up!” in his official signature line on his weekly emails to university alumni, the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported.
“I find it quite embarrassing to admit that I earned two degrees from an institution that employs the offensive slogan [sic] ‘Guns Up’,” Grant wrote in an email to Nellis, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “I will never contribute while that pattern remains,” he continued. “The romantic ‘Wild West’ context of gun violence continues to cause great harm to a great number of individuals, especially children (Guns Up, kids!).”
Nellis, who stepped down as university president, changed his tag line from “Guns Up!” to “Wreck ‘Em!”
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal’s report about the incident triggered a backlash online from Texas Tech supporters and also suggested there might be objections in Minneapolis.
The university received two email complaints about the “Guns Up’ gesture during the 2012 bowl game between Texas Tech and the Minnesota Golden Gophers, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.
But Dave Pinto, a state congressman in Minnesota and and the chief author of two of the leading gun violence prevention measures, said he has no objections to Texas Tech’s tradition.
“The salute itself doesn’t concern me,’’ Pinto said. “In my view taking steps to take guns out of the hands of dangerous people doesn’t need to in anyway impact how the folks who are using firearms responsibly. So I don’t have any concerns with the gesture.’’
Minnesota state senator Ron Latz, who has authored legislation that could restrict access to guns, said Texas Tech’s hand signal is “all in good fun.”
“If they were real guns, I’d be worried about it,” Latz said. “You know what goes up must come down. We don’t need falling bullets hitting fans. But it’s all just celebration.’’
The “Guns Up’’ salute created a stir in January at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, according to multiple published reports about the following:
Diana Durkin, a sophomore at Texas Tech, was traveling back to Lubbock after spending the holidays with her family in Houston. When she saw someone wearing a Texas Tech sweatshirt at the airport, Durkin threw her “Guns Up” signal — drawing attention not only of the fellow Red Raider, but also from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees.
The security team opened and inspected Durkin’s luggage and patted her down, according to a report from the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Durkin’s tweet about the ordeal went viral.
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According to Texas Tech guard Parker Hicks, the “Guns Up’’ salute should not be misconstrued.
“It’s just a symbol, like our mascot, Red Raider,’’ Hicks said. “It shouldn’t be taken as anything else. It means that we’re ready to just get after it.
“Get your guns and be ready to get after it.’’