The chorus marred a 41-20 victory for the Ducks, who were No. 25-ranked entering the game against the No. 12 Cougars. Hours after the game, Utah’s governor denounced the chant as “religious bigotry.” On Sunday afternoon, University of Oregon officials apologized, calling the chant “offensive and disgraceful.” Students said they were “ashamed” of their classmates.
BYU, located in Provo, Utah, was founded in 1875 by Brigham Young, who served from 1847 to 1877 as the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Nearly all of the more than 30,000 students at BYU are Mormon.
A BYU alum sat next to the student section and captured the chant in a seven-second video that has since been viewed more than 988,000 times on Twitter. Aubrey, the alum identified only by her first name, told KSTU that she attended the Cougars-Ducks game with a close friend from college as part of their tradition of visiting an opposing team’s stadium for a BYU away game.
Aubrey said the student section had shouted the chant twice before she recorded her video with 14:53 left in the second quarter. BYU scored a touchdown and was preparing to kick an extra point that made the score 10-7. She told KSTU that she heard the chant two more times but didn’t confront the students “because I felt that would make the situation worse.” Instead, she told the station, she alerted a stadium staffer.
“It was really disappointing,” she told the TV station, adding that “there’s an unfortunate acceptance in a lot of areas that you don’t make fun of a lot of religions, but Mormons are free game to make fun of. And I would like that to stop.”
Aubrey’s video caught the attention of Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R), who just hours after the game said that “religious bigotry [is] alive and celebrated in Oregon.”
That’s not true, or at least it shouldn’t be, his counterpart in Oregon, Gov. Kate Brown (D), said.
“In Oregon, we strive to be a welcoming, inclusive state to all, regardless of race, religion, gender, or background,” Brown said in a statement. “Our state and nation have an ugly history of discrimination and bigotry. The chant at yesterday’s Oregon-BYU game was unacceptable.
Officials at the University of Oregon agree. On Sunday afternoon, they apologized for “an offensive and disgraceful chant coming from the student section during yesterday’s game.”
“These types of actions go against everything the university stands for, and it goes against the spirit of competition,” university officials said in the statement. “We can and will do better as a campus community that has no place for hate, bias or bigotry.”
Kris Winter, the university’s interim vice president for the division of student life, told the Associated Press that officials would investigate what happened.
The Oregon Pit Crew, the official Twitter account of the Ducks student section, also said it was sorry, adding that it does “not condone or support any hateful speech directed towards one’s religion.”
An almost identical incident happened last college football season on Nov. 27, when the Cougars beat the University of Southern California Trojans, 35-31, in Los Angeles. Several BYU fans at the game told the Deseret News that on at least five occasions, USC students yelled the same obscene, anti-Mormon chant that Ducks fans would engage in less than a year later.
USC officials apologized a day later, denouncing the chant as “distasteful” and saying that it did “not align with our Trojan values.”
Last month, BYU found itself under fire when a Duke women’s volleyball player accused a Cougars fan of repeatedly yelling a racial slur at outside hitter Rachel Richardson “every time she served” during an Aug. 26 match in Provo. Richardson was later “threatened by a white male that told her to watch her back going to the team bus,” her godmother, Fort Worth attorney Lesa Pamplin, tweeted after the match.
While BYU initially apologized to the Blue Devils and banned the student accused of yelling racial slurs at Richardson, it announced Sept. 9 that an investigation into the incident didn’t find “any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event.”