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

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 take her alma mater, Brigham Young University, against 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 Salt Lake City-based NBC affiliate KSL, it wasn’t until after the singing began for the third time that she grabbed her phone and started recording, hoping Oregon fans would notice and would stop.

They didn’t.

She eventually spoke to a stadium employee who was justifiably angry about the chanting, although it’s not clear what, if any, 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 doesn’t actually mean getting your “planet of your own.”)

When the play debuted in 2011, the church decided not to protest, but instead removed Playbill ads that read, “You’ve seen the play… read the book now.” Atlantic’s McKay Coppins described his reaction at the time in a lengthy magazine article about his faith last year: “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 this most recent round of chants, it’s time to ask, as Coppins seems to do, if not too much good humor in the face of vulgar entertainment and displays of public bigotry and an outburst of church vandalism – including the attempted burning of a temple in July – could also inadvertently normalize or even enable that bigotry.

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.” When “The Book of Mormon” came out, the show’s creators said they knew the church was going to be “cool. … We weren’t too surprised by the Church’s response.”

Perhaps that’s why the offending chant wasn’t eradicated the first time, though the University of Southern California did apologize after the episode last year. 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. At last year’s USC-BYU game, USC’s own quarterback was a Latter-day Saint. It also appears that he was one of the USC’s assistant coaches, according to my publication, the Deseret 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 featured two contemporary abbreviations for these ideals, an LGBTQ pride flag and a Black Lives Matter banner, while a sonorous voice boasted of “the progressive spirit that distinguishes our student-athletes, educators, and fans 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.