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BYU-Oregon Game Chant Against Mormons Deserves Apology. But it’s not enough.

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In an age of high inclusiveness, it’s worth pausing for a moment and wondering how a crowd of people—even strangers—could feel comfortable singing “F—the Mormons” in unison. singing, over and over, over the course of a three-hour sporting event. The fact that such a circumstance has occurred not once but twice in several Pac-12 college football stadiums in recent years begs another question: why isn’t more being done to stop it?

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

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, BYU’s sponsorship agency, Aubrey wanted the singing to stop. But she also didn’t want to make matters worse by confronting a rowdy crowd. According to the account she shared with NBC affiliate KSL of Salt Lake City, only after the chanting had started for the third time did she pick up her phone and start recording, hoping the Oregon fans would notice and stop.

They didn’t.

Finally, she spoke to a stadium employee who: was rightly upset about the singing, although it is not clear what action was taken. Before that, she said, the first stadium employee she approached shrugged it off. “He apparently thought it was funny,” she guessed.

There is certainly something to be said for being in a good mood, not taking yourself too seriously, and laughing at trivial transgressions – we all know sticks and stones. Latter-day Saints have a good track record of turning the cheeks.

Both schools should be applauded for publicly denouncing these chants, and I have no doubts about the sincerity of the apologies. But I also think it’s reasonable to expect more from schools.

For example, the Church was praised for its cold-blooded response to “The Book of Mormon.” The musical from the creators of “South Park”, an animated TV show that ridiculed religion, captivates Broadway audiences to this day with a mix of wickedness and misinformation. (It may be news for the comically serious lead in the musical – “Elder Price” – but God’s plan does not, in fact, imply that youown planet.”)

When the play debuted in 2011, the Church decided not to protest, but Playbill instead. to turn off read ads“You’ve seen the piece… read the book now.” The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins last year described his reaction at the time in a lengthy magazine article about his faith: “I remember being delighted with the response from the Church. What a smart PR! What a kind gesture! See, everyone? We can take a joke!

But then Coppins ran into a theater critic who, after seeing the musical, was “astonished at how the show got away with being so ruthless on a minority religion without any meaningful response.” Coppins attributed it to “kindness” of the Latter-day Saint. But the critic offered an alternative explanation: “It’s because your people have absolutely no cultural cachet.”

Perhaps the critic is right and Latter-day Saints really suffer from the kind of acute cachet deficiencies that arise when a culture is born and grown in a flyover. Or perhaps a mixture of non-coastal friendliness and a distinctly Latter-day Saints’ ability to smile, even as doors slam shut on conversion missions.

Anyway, after these most recent chants, it’s time to ask, like Coppins seems toor too much good humor towards vulgar entertainment and displays of public bigotry and an outburst of ecclesiastical vandalism – including the attempted burning of a temple in July – can also unintentionally normalize or even enable that intolerance.

There is, of course, a balance to be struck in the case of the Oregon chants. There are wise reasons for the strong First Amendment protections of speech, even highly offensive speech, in public places. And yet, if you can publicly sing “F—the Mormons” with only minimal social repercussions, it’s time for Latter-day Saints to collectively press, as Aubrey tried to do, for more and more direct action. . Especially from school officials when hostility flares up 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 creators of the show said they knew the church would “become cool. … We weren’t too surprised by the Church’s response.”

Perhaps that is why the offending chant was not eradicated the first time, 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 denouncing these chants, and I have no doubts about the sincerity of the apologies. But I also think it’s reasonable to expect more from schools.

Universities should advise fans and students about good sportsmanship. They must create expectations in the public and take measures to maintain them. They must send staff into the crowd if necessary and, in extreme circumstances, remove offending fans. They must hold fans and students, as well as staff who act as amused bystanders, to a reasonable degree of accountability.

It is not only the right choice for the visiting fans, but also for the schools themselves. At last year’s USC-BYU game, USC’s own quarterback was a Latter-day Saint.

It is not only the right choice for the visiting fans, but also for the schools themselves. During the USC-BYU competition last year, the USC was very own quarterback was a Latter-day Saint. It also appears that he was one of the USC’s assistant coaches, according to reports in my publication, the Desert news.

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

I do not believe that people should walk on eggshells for fear of offending where they are not meant to be. Nor do I believe that a pluralistic society can survive long on elaborate cycles of entrenched identitarian grievances. Turning the other cheek remains both a sublime Christian admonition and, secularly speaking, just good advice.

But I don’t believe it violates that principle to ask universities to conform to what they claim to be: diverse and inclusive environments. A Pac-12 commercial last year there were two contemporary shorthands for these 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, educators, and fans apart from everyone else.”

It is a noble and inspiring concept. It’s definitely worth a mention in a TV commercial. But after last weekend, I can’t imagine Aubrey or Manumaleuna believing it’s always lived reality.

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