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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Bubba Cunningham shouldn't have to apologize to Clemson fans

Ryan Wilcox BMS.jpg

Ryan Wilcox, the Daily Tar Heel sports editor, poses for a portrait. 

Get ready: I'm about to channel my inner grouchy old man.

At North Carolina football's game against No. 1 Clemson on Saturday (which the Tar Heels eventually lost, 21-20), UNC's game day operations officials had a little fun with the Tiger faithful. During a break in the action, the video board displayed shots of four different Clemson fans, overlaid with captions such as "Can't name Clemson's last head coach" and "Also a Patriots fan."

I was kicking it in the press box when I saw it happen. My first reaction, being someone who enjoys fun: "Oh, wow, what a tame and harmless way to poke fun at fans of the number one team in the country. Gotta love a little friendly banter!"

Of course, though, this being 2019, people were Mad Online, with some sending emails to UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham — enough, it seems, for Cunningham to issue apologies to both Clemson fans and officials, as reported by The Greenville News.

"We want everyone who comes to Chapel Hill to have a positive experience on our campus — whether they are our supporters or our opponents’ fans, first-time visitors or long-time guests,” Cunningham said in an email statement. “The video board spot featuring Clemson fans on Saturday was not in that spirit, we regret that it was produced. We addressed the inappropriateness of the spot with the responsible staff members immediately after it was shown, and we will continue to address this week the breakdown in process that led to it, and I have apologized to Clemson President James Clements and Director of Athletics Dan Radakovich.”

Don't Clemson fans have better things to do? Are two national championships and a 20-game winning streak not enough?

First things first: UNC didn't invent the so-called "Bandwagon Cam." Most famously, the Milwaukee Bucks used it to great effect in 2016 against the Golden State Warriors, with such jabs as "Warriors fan since 2015" and "Bought this shirt earlier today." And as far as I can tell, the negative reaction to the stunt was minimal.

That's probably because the Warriors were, I don't know, the most dominant team in the NBA at the time, which brings me to my second point: Clemson is the best college football program of the last few years. The Tigers are deserving of every bit of praise they've received, but the visibility that comes with that success, inevitably, won't all lead to good things. Except this could hardly even be considered bad — the most mean-spirited of the jokes was a shot of a heavyset man with the caption "Thinks 'The Fridge' is just a kitchen appliance," which was likely just an unfortunate coincidence. 

All three of the other shots jokingly alluded that the fans in question were bandwagons. Boo-hoo.

I should mention, of course, that the reaction to UNC's trolling wasn't all bad. Plenty of fans thought it was funny, while others took it in stride (i.e. didn't get Mad Online about it). But clearly there was enough negative response from Tigers fans to warrant an apology from Cunningham.

As a member of the notoriously soft millennial generation, let me be the first to tell you how ridiculous that is. 


@DTHSports |

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