At a football game on Friday, Rice University’s marching band offended some spectators when they included references to the sexual assault scandal that has rocked the campus of their opponent, Baylor University, in their halftime performance. The band performed in the shape of the Roman numeral IX, a reference to Title IX, and in the shape of a star, a reference to former Baylor University President Ken Starr.
Starr left the school in May after Baylor failed to respond appropriately when football players were accused of sexual assault, even retaliating against some victims, according to a report by law firm Pepper Hamilton. Later, several victims filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university.
According to ESPN, Rice's Marching Owl Band is known for satirical performances, and the Houston Chronicle reports that the MOB has seriously pissed off fans at other schools before. The band focused this performance on the section of the crowd dedicated to Baylor students.
Rice University issued a statement apologizing for offending spectators, but stressed that the university doesn't know about or approve the band's performances before game time. The statement is more of a “I’m sorry you were offended” apology than a sincere one—the school clearly wants to avoid responsibility.
“The Marching Owl Band, or MOB, has a tradition of satirizing the Rice Owls’ football opponents. In this case, the band’s calling attention to the situation at Baylor was subject to many different interpretations," the statement reads. "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.”
The statement continues, “The MOB sought to highlight the events at Baylor by satirizing the actions or inactions of the Baylor administration, but it is apparent from the comments of many spectators and Baylor fans that the MOB's effort may have went too far.” Notice that the university avoided making a statement on whether they think the performance was offensive.
Whether or not the Marching Owl Band went too far, their satire didn't help Rice's football team at all. Baylor won the game 38-10.