The BYU-Oregon game chant against the Mormons deserves an apology. But it’s not enough.


In an age of high-minded inclusiveness, it’s worth pausing to wonder how a crowd of people – even strangers – could feel comfortable chanting “F— Mormons” in unison over and over again over a three-hour period. athletic event. The fact that such a circumstance has occurred not once but twice at different Pac-12 college football stadiums in recent years raises yet another question: why isn’t more being done to stop it?

On Saturday, a college football fan, who has only been identified as Aubrey, traveled from the East Coast to Eugene, Oregon to watch her alma mater, Brigham Young University, take on the East Coast Ducks. Oregon. BYU lost, 41-20, but it wasn’t the scoreboard that ruined Aubrey’s experience. During the game, she said, the nearby crowd started chanting “F— the Mormons.” Again and again.

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the institution that sponsors BYU, Aubrey wanted the chanting to stop. But she also didn’t want to make matters worse by facing a rowdy crowd. According to the account she shared with Salt Lake City-based NBC affiliate KSL, it wasn’t until after the chant started for the third time that she pulled out her phone and started recording, hoping that Oregon fans would notice and stop.

They did not do it.

Eventually, she spoke with a member of stadium staff who was understandably upset by the chanting, although it’s unclear what action, if any, was taken. Before that, she said, the first stadium employee she approached ignored it. “He apparently thought it was funny,” she surmised.

Certainly there is something to be said for being in a good mood, not taking yourself too seriously and laughing at petty offenses – we all know about sticks and stones. Latter-day Saints have a good track record of turning cheeks.

Both schools should be applauded for publicly condemning these chants, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of the apology. But I also think it’s reasonable to expect schools to do more.

The church, for example, has been praised for its calm response to the “Book of Mormon.” The musical from the makers of “South Park,” an animated TV show that once ridiculed religion, still fascinates Broadway audiences today with a mixture of profanity and misinformation. (This may be news for the musical’s comedic, serious main character – “Elder Price” – but God’s plan doesn’t, in fact, involve you getting your “own planet.”)

When the play debuted in 2011, the church decided not to protest, but instead to run Playbill ads saying, “You’ve seen the play…now read the book.” Last year, McKay Coppins of The Atlantic described his reaction at the time in a long magazine article about his faith: “I remember being delighted with the response from the Church. Such savvy public relations! Such a good gesture! See, everyone? We can joke!

But then Coppins came across a theater critic who, after seeing the musical, “marveled at how the show got away with being so callous to a minority religion without any significant backlash.” Coppins put it down to the “kindness” of Latter-day Saints. But the reviewer offered an alternative explanation: “It’s because your people have absolutely no cultural cachet.”

Perhaps the critic is right, and Latter-day Saints really do suffer from the kind of acute character deficiencies that arise when a culture is born and developed in a land overflown. Or perhaps a mixture of non-coastal kindness and a distinct Latter-day Saint ability to smile even when doors slam on proselytizing missions play a role.

Anyway, after this last round of chanting, it’s time to ask, as Coppins seems to do, if too cheerful in the face of vulgar entertainment and displays of public fanaticism and a wave of vandalism in the he church – including the attempted temple fire in July – can also unwittingly normalize or even enable this bigotry.

There is of course a balance to be found in the case of the songs of Oregon. There are wise reasons for the strong First Amendment protections of speech, even deeply offensive speech, in public places. And yet, if you can publicly chant “F— Mormons” with only minimal social consequences, it’s time for Latter-day Saints to collectively push, as Aubrey sought to do, for greater action and more immediate. Especially from school officials when animosity erupts on campuses.

As MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell once joked, “Mormons are the nicest people in the world. … They will never shoot me. Indeed, when “The Book of Mormon” came out, the show’s creators said they knew the church “was going to be cool. … We were not surprised by the church’s response.

Perhaps that’s why the offending chant wasn’t drowned out the first time around, even though the University of Southern California apologized after last year’s episode. Just like Oregon this year. Both schools should be applauded for publicly condemning these chants, and I don’t doubt the sincerity of the apology. But I also think it’s reasonable to expect schools to do more.

Universities should advise fans and students on sportsmanship. They should define public expectations and take steps to enforce them. They must send personnel into the crowd if necessary and, in extreme circumstances, remove offending fans. They must hold fans and students, as well as staff members who act as amused spectators, to a reasonable level of responsibility.

It’s the right thing to do not only for visiting fans, but also for the schools themselves. In the USC-BYU game last year, the USC quarterback was a Latter-day Saint.

It’s the right thing to do not only for visiting fans, but also for the schools themselves. In the USC-BYU game last year, the USC quarterback was a Latter-day Saint. It turns out that he was also one of USC’s assistant coaches, according to information from my publication, the Deseret News.

In Saturday’s Oregon-BYU game, high school quarterback TC Manumaleuna of Salem, Oregon was on hand as a potential recruit for the Ducks. After hearing the chants addressed to his faith, Manumaleuna and his family packed up and left the game early, according to the Statesman Journal.

I don’t believe people should have to walk on eggshells for fear of offending where none exists. Nor do I believe that a pluralistic society survives very long on prolonged cycles of entrenched identity grievances. Turning the other cheek remains both a sublime Christian admonition and, secularly speaking, simple good advice.

But I don’t think it violates that principle of asking universities to live up to what they claim to be: diverse and inclusive environments. Last year, a Pac-12 ad featured two contemporary shorthand for those ideals, an LGBTQ pride flag and a Black Lives Matter banner, while a sonorous voice boasted of “the progressive spirit that sets our student-athletes apart. , teachers and fans of everyone else. ”

It is a noble and inspiring concept. It’s certainly TV commercial worthy. But after last weekend, I can’t imagine Aubrey or Manumaleuna believing that’s still the lived reality.



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