Just moments after the Brigham Young University Cougars scored their first touchdown during Saturday’s football game, University of Oregon students erupted in a chant disparaging their opponents.
They didn’t specifically mention the Cougars or the university. Instead, the students focused on something intrinsically linked to BYU — religion — in an obscene, anti-Mormon chant in front of a sold-out crowd of 54,000 in Eugene, Ore.
The chorus marred the Ducks’ 41-20 victory over the No. 12 Cougars, who were ranked 25th entering the game. Utah’s governor condemned the chant as “religious bigotry” hours after the game. University of Oregon officials apologized on Sunday afternoon, calling the chant “offensive and disgraceful.” Students described themselves as “ashamed” of their classmates.
Brigham Young, the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, founded Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, in 1875. Almost all of BYU’s more than 30,000 students are Mormon.
A BYU alum sat next to the student section and recorded the chant, which has since been viewed over 988,000 times on Twitter. Aubrey, the alum identified only by her first name, told KSTU that she went to the Cougars-Ducks game with a close friend from college as part of their tradition of visiting the stadium of the opposing team for a BYU away game.
The student section, according to Aubrey, shouted the chant twice before she recorded her video with 14:53 left in the second quarter. BYU had scored a touchdown and was about to kick an extra point, making the score 10-7. She told KSTU that she heard the chant twice more but didn’t confront the students “because I felt that would aggravate the situation.” Instead, she informed a stadium employee, according to the station.
Aubrey’s video piqued the interest of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R), who stated just hours after the game that “religious bigotry [is] alive and well in Oregon.”
That’s not true, or at least it shouldn’t be, according to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D).
“We strive in Oregon to be a welcoming, inclusive state for all, regardless of race, religion, gender, or background,” Brown said in a statement. “Our state and country have a dreadful history of discrimination and bigotry.” The chant at yesterday’s game between Oregon and BYU was unacceptable.
University of Oregon officials concur. They apologized on Sunday afternoon for “an offensive and disgraceful chant coming from the student section during yesterday’s game.”
“These kinds of actions contradict everything the university stands for, and they contradict the spirit of competition,” university officials said in a statement. “As a campus community that has no place for hatred, bias, or bigotry, we can and will do better.”
The university’s interim vice president for student life, Kris Winter, told the Associated Press that officials would look into what happened.
The official Twitter account of the Ducks student section, the Oregon Pit Crew, also expressed regret, adding that it “does not condone or support any hateful speech directed towards one’s religion.”
Last November 27, the Cougars defeated the University of Southern California Trojans, 35-31, in Los Angeles in an almost identical incident. Several BYU fans at the game told the Deseret News that USC students yelled the same obscene, anti-Mormon chant that Ducks fans would engage in less than a year later on at least five occasions.
A day later, USC officials apologized, calling the chant “distasteful” and saying it “did not align with our Trojan values.”
BYU came under fire last month after a Duke women’s volleyball player accused a Cougars fan of yelling a racial slur at outside hitter Rachel Richardson “every time she served” during an Aug. 26 match in Provo. After the game, Richardson’s godmother, Fort Worth attorney Lesa Pamplin, tweeted that she was “threatened by a white male who told her to watch her back going to the team bus.”
While BYU initially apologized to the Blue Devils and barred the student accused of yelling racial slurs at Richardson, an investigation into the incident found “no evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event,” according to a statement released on September 9.