Utah football: Whittingham, Ute players downplay baptism video
With BYU and Utah three days away from their meeting at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the rivalry has taken a controversial turn via social media.
Late Tuesday, a video surfaced on Twitter showing what appears to be Utah football players engaging in a mock baptism, with senior linebacker Brian Blechen being immersed by a fellow Ute player with a towel over his head.
The video was posted to the Instagram account of running back Lucky Radley on Aug. 23, six days before Utah's season-opening win against Utah State. The Utes were still one day away from wrapping up preseason camp at that time.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said Wednesday he was aware of the video. He also said there was no ill intent involved with his players although he questioned their judgment.
Whittingham said the incident was dealt with earlier and no disciplinary action would be taken.
"We have addressed this issue with our players," Whittingham said in a statement. "And although it was poor judgment on their part, there was absolutely no malice or disrespect intended towards any particular religion or rite."
BYU is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But two Utah players who are LDS said via Twitter Wednesday that fellow Mormons should not be offended.
"To all of the Utah/ BYU/LDS/ non-LDS fans who saw this Utah video. First of all was posted two months ago. Not this week. And it was not ... not intended to offend any religion. It was a dare to see if the player would go all the way under the water in the ice tub. ... 2 of the 3 people in the video were baptized by immersion and one was actually LDS. For any LDS member to be offended by this is a reach," tight end Jake Murphy and defensive end Trevor Reilly wrote via Murphy's Twitter account.
BYU and Utah will meet on Saturday in what is a big game for both teams. The Utes are attempting to erase the remnants of a painful loss to Oregon State on Saturday, while the Cougars don't want to fall to Utah for the fourth consecutive season. Adding more intrigue is the fact that the schools will take a two year hiatus from playing each other, the first break in the series since the 1940s.
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