Mason urges UI students against distasteful Penn State apparel


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In preparation for the first home football game, University of Iowa President Sally Mason and other UI officials have called for Hawkeye fans to be respectful toward opposing teams, especially Penn State.

The NCAA imposed sanctions on Penn State this past summer in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child-abuse sex scandal. Mason is chairwoman of the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors, which also imposed a set of sanctions on Penn State.

In an Op Ed and at last week’s Presidential Committee on Athletics meeting, Mason said she was “appalled” to see messages referring to the Penn State sex abuse scandal on T-shirts.

“This form of unauthorized apparel unfortunately is not new, but has sunk to new lows by taking advantage of the terrible circumstances at Penn State to denigrate that university as well as other opponents,” Mason said in the Op-Ed submission to The Daily Iowan.

The NCAA imposed a slew of sanctions against Penn State on July 23 following the child sex-abuse scandal, including a four-year postseason ban and $60 million fine. The Big Ten also banned Penn State from the Big Ten championship game for four years and an additional $13 million fine.

When asked for specifics of the T-shirts she saw, UI spokesman Tom Moore said Mason chose not to repeat the offensive language on the T-shirt she witnessed.

UI Student Government President Nic Pottebaum said from what he gathered in a conversation with Mason, he believes the shirts were worn in Chicago during the game at Soldier Field on Sept. 1. He said these shirts went too far and were very inappropriate.

Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students President Michael Appel said students should exercise discretion when choosing shirts to wear that represent the UI.

“I don’t think we need to make light of [the Penn State] situation,” he said. 

Although no UI officials confirmed the specific apparel in question, a shirt design reading, “I’d rather shower at Penn State than cheer for the Huskers,” with a picture of Herky atop the message, has been circulated online.

Similar messages have been printed on shirts for Ohio State and LSU.

It appears as though none of the T-shirts are sold in the Iowa City area. Officials at Iowa Book, the Den, and Raygun said they were selling no such shirts.

“I think there’s a line, [and] that shirt might be crossing it,” UI sophomore Caroline Schneider said.
But though she said the shirts cross a line, she doesn’t know how Mason could stop them from being worn.

While Mason couldn’t personally stop students from wearing the apparel, the UI has measures in place to ensure offensive shirts do not make their way into the stadium on game days.

“Athletics staff members can and do ask fans to remove or turn inside out offensive T-shirts,” Moore said.

Jim Lynch, the senior director of media at Ohio State University, said the university found out about some unauthorized Penn State-related apparel last week via social media.

Similar to the UI’s policy, Lynch said fans wearing offensive shirts to Ohio Stadium are asked to exchange them for Ohio State T-shirts, or they will not be allowed in the stadium and given a ticket refund.

He did not specify the shirt in question.

“It was not a university sanctioned t-shirt, and we have no knowledge of where it originated,” Lynch said. “It is unacceptable and appalling that someone would make light of a tragedy in this manner.”

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