Clashtag: British Olympians ‘steal’ #GBR from Nebraska Huskers football fans

Fans of the Nebraska Cornhuskers football team have long cheered Go Big Red so why is the Union Jack now latching onto their tweets?

On the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, the abbreviation GBR means a specific thing to supporters of the University of Nebraska football team.

The Cornhuskers, so named in honor of the home states agricultural heritage, have won five collegiate national titles and 880 games since being founded in 1890, the fourth-most of any top-level university in the United States. Theyre a big deal in the land of cows, corn and college football.

And when a fan of the team roars Goooo Biiiig Reeeed on the way into Memorial Stadium on a fall Saturday, at a pancake breakfast in a church basement, at the gas station or really anywhere in or around Lincoln, the states capital she expects to hear a quick Go Big Red in response.

This is the cadence of a football season in Nebraska, and on Twitter, in Cornhusker circles (fans refer to themselves as Huskers), that traditional chant gets shortened to #GBR.

Lately, however, Nebraska football fans using the hashtag have noticed something new popping up in their social media feeds as the Olympics get under way in Brazil.

A Union Jack.

Thats because #GBR is accompanying tweets about the British Olympic team at the games in Rio. Using #GBR on Twitter now conjures up a hashflag, a small, emoji graphic deployed for big events. The Uefa Champions League final in May had a small depiction of the European Champions Clubs cup, and Februarys Super Bowl had a tiny Vince Lombardi trophy.

Understandably, the hashflag has ruffled the feathers of Cornhusker fans. As sports blogger Husker Mike lamented on Tuesday: … all of a sudden, the #GBR now has the British Union Jack attached to it. Wait … didnt we win two wars against the British so that we were free of England, her Majesty and that flag?

A British with Union Jack nails outside the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro, ahead of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images
It has also caused some consternation as fans mourn the loss of beloved 22-year-old kicker Sam Foltz, who died in a car accident on 23 July. Kyle Hobbs, a Lincoln resident, was at a nearby casino when he learned of Foltzs death and tweeted out his support, only to see a British flag accompany his words. I tweeted so fast I thought maybe I accidentally hit a flag emoji.

Perhaps no one in America monitors the GBR hashtag as closely as Kelly Mosier, the University of Nebraska athletic departments director of digital communications. One of his duties is to manage an official university Twitter account with more than 278,000 followers.

Mosier first recalled Cornhusker fans first noticing a British flair accompanying their tweets during the EuroVision Song Contest 2015. He wasnt surprised when the flag popped up again this month.

Theres literally nothing we can do. Its the Olympics. Its not like were going to call Twitter and say, Hey, youve got to stop doing that, Mosier said. Its a big world. There are lots of people talking about lots of things.

That hasnt stopped Nebraska fans from proposing some good-humored ideas as to how to handle the great #GBR conundrum of 2016.

Lance Knapple, an investigator for the state of Nebraska, tweeted at the official Nebraska athletics Twitter account that a football match should be organized between the Cornhuskers and Great Britain with the winner taking ownership of #GBR.

An American football match.

If they want to cobble together a football team and bring it over here, we can get this set up right now, Knapple said. We can take care of it.

Joking aside, Knapple admitted that hes an Anglophile at heart. Its a great country full of wonderful music and writing, he said. BBC TV is by far better than American television.

Mosier, who has made a few trips to London in his lifetime, also expressed his love for all things British, particularly the tiny, blue-and-red image hell have no choice but to see thousands of times in the coming weeks as he monitors Nebraskas social media feed. Its Britain, Mosier said. Its a cool-looking flag.

Still, sporting allegiances die hard.

Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) August 4, 2016



But that, too, was said mostly in fun. Two days earlier the Huskers account sent out some qualified support to its hashtag mate of the next few weeks.

Nebraska Huskers (@Huskers) August 2, 2016

Hey @TeamGB, good luck in Rio.

We’ll be cheering for you some, even though our heart is with @TeamUSA.

Two teams, one hashtag…#GBR

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