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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Gator fans joking about rape should be ashamed

Often when we bemoan UF fan behavior, we refer to benign actions such as students leaving before the game is over or stupidly passing out due to excessive alcohol consumption.

However, fan behavior that occurred Saturday during the UF-FSU game at The Swamp was far more sinister.

Photos are being shared online of UF students wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “The Rapers: Forced Sex University” in response to Jameis Winston’s alleged rape of an FSU student last December. Although we normally hesitate to source, sources told the website’s moderator that men of UF’s Phi Gamma Delta chapter were behind this particular T-shirt design.

However, the fraternity wasn’t alone in its disgusting display of ignorance. Cheers rang out over the stadium on Saturday, mocking FSU, the Winston case and rape and sexual assault in general.

UF fans gleefully clung to the negative attention FSU has been receiving with tasteless jokes and crude T-shirts, thus cementing the image in Americans’ brains of UF as a party school full of drunken idiots who lack sensitivity about campus rape — a national problem that affects about one in five college women.

The Alligator’s editorial board would like to apologize to the victim and her family on behalf of the UF fans who apparently have no regard for the real people involved in the Winston case and the 20 percent of college women affected by sexual assault and rape.

Low morale isn’t a reason to bring an issue much more serious than football itself into the stadium.

What is perhaps more disturbing is how the fan behavior went beyond the “rape-jokes-aren’t-funny” argument.

In this case, a stadium full of students shamed another university because one individual came forward and reported rape to the police. This sends a damaging message to women that victim-blaming is inevitable and could discourage them from coming forward with their stories of rape and sexual assault — crimes that are grossly underreported in the first place.

To the students who participated and were complicit in this behavior, you should take a close look at yourselves. It’s very likely some of the women around you in the stadium were victims of rape and sexual assault, yet you decided to make it a joke under the weak guise of football rivalry.

UF prides itself on being a progressive institution that makes enormous strides in academia and research, but these malicious actions hurt the brand UF has worked to establish and diminishes the value of a UF degree. It further adds to a victim-blaming culture in response to reports of rape, and it sends a message to women that silence is better than tarnishing a university’s image.

For a university that’s supposed to be a hotbed for forward thinking, the actions of UF fans on Saturday represented one giant step backward.

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A version of this editorial ran on page 6 on 12/2/2013 under the headline "Gator fans joking about rape should be ashamed"

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