Red balloons for football

Workers carry red balloons into Memorial Stadium last season. The tradition of releasing balloons at Nebraska football games dates back more than 60 years.

For the second time this year, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s student government group has passed a resolution calling for the end of a longstanding Husker football tradition.

Student representatives unanimously voted last week to encourage the end of helium balloon releases at Husker football games and the university at large, citing both environmental concerns and rising helium costs in a news release announcing the vote.

ASUN passed a similar resolution only eight months ago. Student Senator Kat Woerner, a senior studying economics, environmental studies and natural resource economics, proposed both resolutions.

“Traditions do have an important role at Nebraska, but no tradition should be given priority over our researchers who are worried about the rising cost of helium and shortages in the future,” Woerner said in the news release.

Balloon releases have been a staple at Husker games for more than 60 years. Repeated calls for the end of the tradition — ranging from a civil lawsuit to public opinion campaigns — have been unsuccessful. (The lawsuit was dismissed.)

In 2018, a Florida-based nonprofit advertised its call for the tradition’s end on a Lincoln billboard, calling on fans and the university to “stop littering.”

The university, in response, issued a statement underscoring its own concern for wildlife.

“Every balloon released in Memorial Stadium is 100% natural latex biodegradable, as purchased from Midwest Balloon in Omaha,” the statement read. “In addition, we do not use plastic tabs to tie off the balloons and we use 100% cotton strings.”

In 2019, more than half — 51.5% — of UNL students who participated in the student elections said they wanted the longstanding Husker football tradition to continue, while 42.5% said they wanted it to end. Six percent of the 3,829 students who indicated their opinion on the nonbinding survey said they didn’t care.

A year later, though, 61% of student voters in the spring 2020 election supported finding a sustainable alternative to the balloon release. The student government group’s news release does not mention an alternative.

In other news

MOSCOW (AP) — President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin will speak by telephone on Tuesday as tensions between the U.S. and Russia escalate over a Russian troop buildup on the Ukrainian border seen as a sign of a potential invasion.

PARIS (AP) — Greeks who are over age 60 and refuse coronavirus vaccinations could be hit with monthly fines of more than one-quarter of their pensions — a get-tough policy that the country's politicians say will cost votes but save lives.