#Clemsonstrong backfires

I’m sure you all heard about the FFRF, or the Freedom From Religion Foundation, calling out Clemson football for Christian influence. The FFRF argued the Clemson football team was too religious and was pressuring non-Christians into religious activities — this article isn’t about that.

I truly don’t mind if the football team participates in religious events. I’m happy a player can be baptized with his friends around him — so as long as those who opt out aren’t ostracized or judged. Multiple former and current players have attested to the fact that they’ve always felt comfortable on the team, so I have no evidence to argue against it. I believe that the FFRF jumped on a supposed opportunity that turned out to be a bust. They are at fault.

That isn’t the problem. The problem isn’t an agency attacking our football team for supposed religious bias, nor is the problem the football program itself. The problem is the misguided, embarrassing response from many Clemson students and alumni.

Soon after the controversy began, the hashtag #ClemsonStrong appeared on Twitter. Most of the first tweets under this hashtag went as so: “Christian by choice, not by force.” Students were voicing the idea that Clemson doesn’t force their personal beliefs on them. That made sense.

However, after several days, the response became more “enthusiastic.” One Facebook user asked, “You don’t like that Clemson football broadcasts their love for Jesus? Don’t go to Clemson . . . it’s as simple as that.” A tweet said, “Stand with Dabo and stand FOR Jesus Christ.” Finally, someone sent an incredibly respectful message to the FFRF: “There are no real atheists there are just those who live with the fear of their sin coming to the light.”

The response morphed from defending the football program itself to defending the religious aspects of the football program and insulting atheists. What is extremely strange about this response is it actually proves half of FFRF’s point. I don’t see Clemson football itself heavily affected by religion, but it’s clear that almost all Clemson fans, or at least the ones who use Twitter, connect their religion to football. Obviously Clemson has a massive religious presence, and the FFRF believed this religious presence was leaking into the football program. Technically, they are correct. The football team is influenced by religion, and the Twitter response was defending this religious connection, not denying that there was one.