Goldy controversy makes national headlines

National media outlets have featured a video of Goldy apparently mocking a praying Penn State player.

Danielle Nordine

Days after SaturdayâÄôs football game between Penn State University and the University of Minnesota, a video of Goldy Gopher seemingly mimicking a Penn State player praying before the game is making headlines in national news. The video, which first appeared on YouTube on Sunday, Oct. 18, and has since collected 36,000 hits, shows Penn State defensive end Jerome Hayes kneeling in the end zone to pray before the game. Goldy appears to mimic Hayes by kneeling in front of him while he prays. Goldy then stands up when Hayes finishes and tries to give him a handshake, which Hayes refuses. Toward the end of the video, someone near to or holding the camera can be heard saying, âÄúHe clearly mocked his prayer. ThatâÄôs not cool.âÄù The story took a few days to pick up steam, but it was published in USA Today on Tuesday and was picked up on many sports blogs and local news outlets, including the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and Fox News. University officials issued a statement Tuesday night apologizing to Hayes and âÄúanyone else who might have taken offense from this incident,âÄù on behalf of Goldy and the University, adding that GoldyâÄôs actions were âÄúplainly a mistake.âÄù The statement also said it wasnâÄôt GoldyâÄôs intent to offend anyone or to âÄútrivialize their religion,âÄù and that Goldy has been advised to exercise âÄúappropriate religious sensitivityâÄù in the future. The stories have garnered many comments, ranging from labeling the incident offensive to praising Goldy for entertaining the crowd. Nora Paul, director for the Institute for New Media Studies at the UniversityâÄôs School of Journalism , said there are a lot of factors that contribute to a video like this âÄúgoing viral.âÄù âÄúOf course, religion is always a hot-button issue,âÄù Paul said, âÄúIâÄôm sure the video pushed some buttons.âÄù Paul pointed out that although two days seems like a long time in todayâÄôs media-driven society, it is a pretty quick turnaround on a topic like this. She added that sometimes issues become news only as a reaction to public discussion, so it takes some time for people to talk about the issue before it hits the mainstream media. Jeff Nelson, assistant athletic director for communications at Penn State, said the incident is a âÄúnon-storyâÄù as far as the university community is concerned. He said he suspected the issue was gaining momentum because Hayes was asked about the incident at a press conference held Tuesday, increasing awareness of the issue nationally. University spokesman Dan Wolter said the UniversityâÄôs apology was simply a response to reporter inquiries, though he added the University has received complaints about GoldyâÄôs behavior. The Gophers lost the game, which was also Penn StateâÄôs homecoming game, 20-0.