Rice University’s marching band are known for including parodies in their performances, but this weekend they came under fire for referencing an opposing team’s rape scandal.
During the halftime show at a game against Baylor University, the Marching Owl Band, or MOB, formed two symbols on the field. The first was an “IX,” referring to a Title IX lawsuit filed against the university after three women claimed that they were victims of “student-on-student sexual assault and subsequent sex-based harassment” at Baylor.
The second symbol was a star, referring to disgraced former Baylor University president Ken Starr, who resigned due to accusations that he failed to respond to the issue of rape and sexual assault on campus.
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In footage from Saturday’s halftime show, you can hear the announcer share a fake, Bill Clinton-inspired “quote” from Ken Starr: “I did not investigate that coach.” The band then breaks into “Hit The Road, Jack,” while forming a star on the field, to the widespread annoyance of Baylor fans in the crowd.
Thanks to the band’s history of using humor in their halftime shows, a lot of people interpreted this as a rape joke, prompting Rice to send out an official statement after the game:
“Although the band’s halftime shows are entirely the members’ projects with no prior review by the university administration, we regret any offense, particularly if Baylor fans may have felt unwelcome in our stadium. While we know that the MOB did not intend in any way to make light of the serious issue of sexual assault, we are concerned that some people may have interpreted the halftime performance in that vein.”
It’s a classic “sorry you were offended” kind of apology, defending the performance by saying, “The MOB sought to highlight the events at Baylor by satirizing the actions or inactions of the Baylor administration.” But while this may have been the band’s intention, it sounds like a lot of Baylor students didn’t see things that way. The halftime show at a college football game is not the best venue for a nuanced satire of such a controversial topic.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor