I have a journalism question, which will require time travel. Let’s take a look back at the 2021 football game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Baylor Bears, which took place in Waco, Texas, an interesting town known to many as “Jerusalem on the Brazos.”
After BYU’s first score, a significant number of Baylor students are heard chanting “F*** Mormons!” again and again. Or maybe, since we’re talking about folks at a Baptist college, the chant is “Convert Mormons!” The chant doesn’t focus on the “Cougars,” but on BYU’s obvious heritage with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The chants were loud enough to be heard on broadcast media, and within minutes clear audio recordings were posted on social media.
My question, which I posed during this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (CLICK HERE to settle this): Would this unpleasant and rude event be considered valid reporting? In national coverage, would the religious ties of the two schools – soon to be rivals in the Big 12 – be discussed? In other words, would it be a report on religion, as well as a report on sports?
I think it’s pretty obvious that the answers would be “yes” and, again, “yes”.
That brings us, of course, to two BYU sports stories from the past few weeks — one that received massive national coverage and one that, well, didn’t get quite as much ink. I think it’s valid to ask “Why?” in both cases.
Before we share some links to coverage of both stories, let’s pause and consider this related report from the Religion News Service: “Nearly 200 religious colleges deemed ‘unsafe’ for LGBTQ students by Campus Pride.” Here is the opening:
Dozens of religious colleges across the country, including Seattle Pacific University in Washington and Brigham Young University in Utah, have been listed as unsafe and discriminatory campuses for LGBTQ students by Campus Pride, a national organization that advocates for inclusive colleges and universities.
According to Campus Pride, less than 10 of the 193 schools on the list released Thursday, Sept. 8, were unaffiliated with a religion or did not state a religious affiliation.
The lengthy Campus Pride report on BYU opens with this statement (the shorter Baylor article appears here):
Brigham Young University qualified for the worst list because it has an established and well-documented history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination that endangers victims of sexual assault and has resulted in a call for it not to not be included as a Big 12 school.
The key word, of course, is “endangers”.
The big deal, of course, is that BYU is a doctrinally defined private school with a lifestyle commitment requiring students, staff, and faculty to strive to uphold (or, at the very least, not not attack) the teachings of the Church of Jesus. Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Both liberal and conservative private schools tend to have such moral and cultural beliefs – often clearly stated in public documents. The problem, of course, is that BYU’s doctrines clash with those of Campus Pride.
A pertinent question: does this affect media coverage?
BYU’s recent sports story which received major national coverage and, therefore, will be familiar to many readers, was summarized in a report by the Independent (as opposed to LDS-linked) Salt Lake City Grandstandwhich began like this:
Duke women’s volleyball player Rachel Richardson was repeatedly called a racial slur by a fan at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse Friday night, according to her family.
Lesa Pamplin, Richardson’s godmother, said that every time Richardson served the ball during the game between Duke and BYU, a fan from the BYU student section would shout the racial slur. At some point during the game, Pamplin said, Richardson was also “threatened by a white man.”