By The Associated Press
In this photo from earlier this year, members of The Antlers student club yell from behind the Arkansas bench. They were moved from that section shortly after the game started.
ST. LOUIS — In some quarters of college basketball fandom, derisive chants directed toward opponents are considered high art. Look no further than the Cameron Crazies, the famed student section at Duke University’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The less heralded Antlers from the University of Missouri are also adept at what their student leader, known as the Grand Poobah, called “getting into the heads” of opposing players.
But after a second straight ejection from Mizzou Arena—this time mid-game Monday night—school officials say the unsanctioned group has crossed the line of good taste, trafficking not in animated school spirit but something that amounts to hate speech.
“This is actually laughable to me, but let me just say this… We have high expectations for our students and our staff at the University of Missouri,” Athletic Director Mike Alden told reporters Monday after Missouri’s 78-64 win over IUPUI. “Our core values are respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence, and it’s critically important that we represent those values every day in everything we do.
“We just want to make sure that folks are representing the institution with class,” he added.
Many fans booed loudly as the ousted students departed barely five minutes into the second half, just two days after the group was also escorted out of the arena by campus police before tipoff against Gardner-Webb. Missouri forward Tony Criswell high-fived several of The Antlers.
Fans who sent angry emails to Alden were provided with a list of “observations” that The Antlers had said at games, including a half-dozen sexually suggestive chants, as well as jokes about abortion, masturbation, sexually transmitted diseases, animal cruelty and the deadly typhoon in the Philippines.
During an opponent’s free throw attempt in the season opener against Southeastern Louisiana, The Antlers shouted, “Raise your hand if you thought Hurricane Katrina was a good thing.” In that same game, the group hollered “Just take him back out and throw him in a Dumpster” as an otherwise-silent arena watched an injured player get carried off the court.
The Antlers have been at Mizzou basketball games 1976, but the ZouCrew is the official school-sanctioned student cheering section.
Grand Poobah Emmett DeLaney, a junior business major from Festus, Mo., met last week with university leaders, including the vice chancellor for student affairs and the student government president.
DeLaney said he acknowledged in the meeting that his 30-member, all-male group had gone too far.
“Do we really want to keep going down this direction, or are we funnier, more smart and creative guys?” he told The Associated Press in a Tuesday interview. “It’s time to turn over a new leaf.”
DeLaney said he and his friends were kicked out Monday over a sexually suggestive chant that’s been in use for at least a decade. The chant includes a pelvic thrust and an act of groping “the guy’s shoulder you’re next to,” DeLaney said.
Saturday’s offending cheer repeats a line of dialogue from the 1989 Chevy Chase movie “Fletch Lives”: “Scum, scum, go back to where you’re from.”
The chant previously ended with the directive, “And die.” DeLaney said the kinder, gentler Antlers substituted “And cry.”
DeLaney said the group has no interest in being asked to leave a third straight game. Missouri’s next home game is Dec. 5 versus West Virginia.
But he’s also concerned that school officials are unfairly targeting The Antlers, noting that both the school band and the arena “kiss cam” have recently featured sexually suggestive songs, including Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”
“Why is the line there for us, but not everyone else in the facility?” said DeLaney, conceding the songs were instrumental versions.