I have a journalism question, one that will require some time travel. Let’s flash back to the 2021 football game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Baylor Bears, which was played in Waco, Texas, an interesting city known to many as “Jerusalem on the Brazos.”
After the first BYU score, a significant number of Baylor students are heard chanting “F*** the Mormons!” over and over. Or maybe, since we are talking about folks from a Baptist university, the chant is “Convert the 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 strong enough to be heard on broadcast media and, within minutes, there are clear audio recordings posted on social media.
My question, a which I asked during this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (CLICK HERE to tune that in): Would this nasty, crude event be considered a valid news story? 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 this be a religion-news story, as well as a sports story?
I think it’s pretty obvious that the answers would be “yes” and, again, “yes.”
This brings us, of course, to two BYU sports stories from recent weeks — one that received massive national coverage and the other that, well, didn’t get nearly as much ink. I think it’s valid to ask “Why?’ in both cases.
Before I share some links to coverage of the two stories, let’s pause and consider this related Religion News Service report: “Nearly 200 religious colleges deemed ‘unsafe’ for LGBTQ students by Campus Pride.” Here is the overture:
Dozens of religious universities across the country, including Seattle Pacific University in Washington and Brigham Young University in Utah, were listed as unsafe and discriminatory campuses for LGBTQ students by Campus Pride, a national organization advocating for inclusive colleges and universities.
Fewer than 10 of the 193 schools on the list released Thursday (Sept. 8), were not religiously affiliated or did not list a religious affiliation, according to Campus Pride.
The lengthy Campus Pride report on BYU opens with this statement (the shorter Baylor item appears here):
Brigham Young University has 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 to not be included as a Big 12 school.
The key word, of course, is “endangers.”
The big issue, of course, is that BYU is a doctrinally-defined private school with a lifestyle covenant requiring students, staff and faculty to strive to defend (or, at the very least, not to attack) the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Both liberal and conservative private schools tend to have moral and cultural beliefs of this kind — often clearly stated in public documents. The problem, of course, is that BYU’s doctrines clash with those of Campus Pride.
A relevant question: Does this affect news coverage?
The recent BYU sports story that received major national coverage and, thus, will be familiar to many readers, was summarized in a report by the independent (as opposed to LDS-linked) Salt Lake City Tribune, which began like this:
Duke women’s volleyball player Rachel Richardson was repeatedly called a racial slur by a fan at BYU’s Smith Fieldhouse on Friday night, her family says.
Lesa Pamplin, Richardson’s godmother, said every time Richardson served the ball during the match between Duke and BYU, a fan in the BYU student section shouted the racial slur. At one point in the match, Pamplin said, Richardson was also “threatened by a white male.”