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Notre Dame football social media post sparks controversy

| Wednesday, September 2, 2020

In the midst of the current movement promoting racial equality, sports have played a role in the conversation. Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram have given individual players, teams and leagues the opportunity to voice their opinions on the protests that continue to erupt in cities across the country. However, the pictures, videos and tweets they post come with both support and backlash.

On Aug. 26, three days after the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wis., Notre Dame football posted an image to its social media accounts that provoked thousands of comments on multiple platforms. The image displays Irish graduate student cornerback Nick McCloud raising his fist while wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt along with the words “stand together.”

The commenters on the post divided themselves primarily into two camps. Those who voiced their displeasure did so for a number of reasons. One commenter objected because he felt that the post portrayed Notre Dame football’s support for a “Marxist terrorist organization.” Another dissenter was displeased with the crossover between college football and a social justice issue.

The other group of commenters was those that gave their approval to Notre Dame football for posting the image. Notre Dame students mostly belonged to this group, and many voiced their support for the team’s statement while condemning the comments made by the opposition.

Sophomore John Carr was one Notre Dame student who commented on the post.

“My initial reaction was definitely positive,” he said. “I was happy that the football team took a stand on behalf of its players and showed its support for an important cause.”

Junior Jacob Messineo also explained why he supported Notre Dame football’s stance.

“The players and the football team should be speaking out on the issues they feel are important,” he said. “People who can’t support the team allowing its players to voice their opinions on social issues can’t really say they support Notre Dame football.”

The team’s post is part of a larger movement across sports protesting police brutality and systemic racism. The Milwaukee Bucks became the first team to respond to the Blake shooting by boycotting their Aug. 26 playoff game against the Orlando Magic. The NBA responded by canceling two more days of playoff games, and other leagues like MLB, MLS and the WNBA followed suit.

Speaking out on social justice issues is something that Notre Dame football has done in the recent past. After the killing of George Floyd while in police custody in late May, the team posted a series of statements made by players, including junior wide receiver Braden Lenzy and graduate student defensive lineman Daelin Hayes, calling for justice and systemic change.

The team also organized a rally and walk for unity June 19, and created a video series with players voicing their support for their black teammates.

The Notre Dame administration released a statement regarding its commitment to combat racism on campus following Floyd’s death, with University President Fr. John Jenkins sending a letter on the matter to students and faculty and offering a prayer at the football team’s June 19 rally.

The University did not make an official statement on the Jacob Blake shooting, but Jenkins issued a letter to students, faculty and staff the day after the shooting outlining the University’s new initiatives to address racial inequality.

Editor’s Note: This article previously stated the University did not comment on the shooting of Jacob Blake prior to the football team’s statement; however, Notre Dame released a statement on racial injustice the day after the shooting. The Observer regrets this error.

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