On Saturday, ESPN aired its annual College GameDay and, as part of the infectious hype and hullaballoo, thousands of manic game-goers put their Sharpies to some serious work to show off the wittiness they’ve been cultivating at their respective institutions. There were plenty of Manti Te'o “Catfish” jokes at the Notre Dame-Michigan game, but one sign stood out for its pure inappropriateness. It read “Hi Lizzy Seeberg,” hoisted high above the crowd.
When a rape accuser dies, can she really ever rest in peace? Not if a Michigan fan has access to poster board and a little bit of television airtime.
In 2010, Seeberg—then a 19-year-old freshman at St. Mary's College, a school across the street from Notre Dame—accused one of ND’s players of sexually assaulting her. She did what she was supposed to do, reporting the incident to authorities, but the treatment of her case lacked concern and urgency which, according to a later report, is apparently how Notre Dame routinely treats women who call out incidents of violent sexual crime.
Days later, she got a text from the player’s friend telling her that "messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea" and threatening her to not “do anything you would regret." Just over a week after she bravely contacted university powers-that-be, she died on an overdose of depression and anxiety meds.
That’s not anything anyone in any frame of their right mind could make a lighthearted zinger out of. Lizzy Seeberg couldn’t see that sign because Lizzy Seeberg is dead. You know, because no one with any power to help her was taking her case seriously and also, the jock culture zombies were harassing her while her life was in full upheaval.
Security is now reevaluating its sign-screening process, but the jokemaker himself allegedly emailed Deadspin to defend his actions. It might take you until happy hour to read his diatribe in its entirety, but he’s claiming he was actually memorializing Seeberg (even though, in this picture, his Cheshire cat grin kind deflects any semblance of good-intentioned empathy):
“Notre Dame isn't just chicken in not playing Michigan. Notre Dame is, among other things, chicken for not having the spine to even say anything to the family of a girl while they have her blood on their hands. Notre Dame, in all facets, is chicken.”
Then he added this: “We don't sit on problems at Michigan. We address them. And if someone wants to come into our house, with the glaring arrogance of Notre Dame, those problems will be addressed. Because once again, this is Michigan.”
And also this: “Everyone is important, Notre Dame. Everyone has value, Notre Dame. You don't treat a victim this way, or her family this way, Notre Dame. And if you don't, you will be called out on it. Because you're at Michigan.”
Smacks of a rally cry and a way to rattle the opponent rather than a heartfelt way to pay homage to the memory of Lizzy Seeberg. Folks' allegiances can get all kinds of misguided and tangled up with the culture of competitive sports and that breeds the ugliest kind of insensitivity. Because God forbid justice interrupt the sanctimonious football program.
Barring those containing profanity, do you think signs should be screened or censored?
Image via hashtag2014/Flickr