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Gordon Monson: The Utah State Aggies take a stand against what they call religious and cultural bias

The USU investigation needs play out, but when an entire team perceives something is unfair, that’s a problem

Utah State interim head coach Frank Maile, center, speaks to his players during a time out in the first half of the New Mexico Bowl NCAA college football game against North Texas in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

There are things that mystify and things that, sadly, shouldn’t be all that surprising. Ignorance and stupidity and bias remain deep-seeded in our society, even among those so-called enlightened who should know better.

Too often, they do not.

That much is fact, and anyone who denies it should, in the most severe cases, pull the bedsheet off their head, and, in less twisted ones, stop and examine the far reaches of their mind to rearrange the way they think.

Even people who consider themselves educated and fair, anything but racist or bigoted or prejudiced, sometimes haven’t quite arrived at the place where they want or need to be.

Claims have been made this month by Utah State football players that school president Noelle Cockett questioned the effects of the religion and culture of interim coach Frank Maile, a candidate for the permanent job who is a Latter-day Saint and Polynesian, raising objections to that as they pertained to future recruiting. They occurred during a video meeting with team leaders, and that call included USU athletic director John Hartwell.

The players were so disturbed by their perception of what was said — Cockett has since insisted she is “devastated” that they could have taken what she said that way — that they voted not to play their final game of the 2020 season, which USU ended up forfeiting.

An investigation into the happenings is currently underway.

I do not know Cockett’s exact words, nor what was meant by them.

What I do know is how the players reacted to them.

Not well.

Some project that the players were disappointed because Maile, who played at Utah State and has been a longtime assistant there, was popular among the players and they favored him to be their next head coach. He was not hired, the position instead going to Blake Anderson, the former coach at Arkansas State.

Some believe this to be a case of too great a sensitivity in a “woke” culture that is out to zealously condemn every hint of bias, regardless of its severity.

As was recently reported by The Tribune, leaders in the Utah Pacific Islander community, joined by others, spoke out against the alleged bias perpetrated by the Utah State president, rejecting it as troubling and unacceptable, particularly at a state university.

A statement sent to the Tribune, read, in part: “As members of Utah’s football community, proud Pacific Islanders, and friends and colleagues of Frank Maile, these events cause great concern for us on several different levels.”

The statement also said: “Cockett asked the players if they felt Maile’s religious and cultural background would impact the University’s future recruiting. Players were then asked about their own religious backgrounds and perceptions coming to USU.”

If that is true, it is pathetic.

If it was meant as a means to better understand the makeup of the team and to diversify a program at a school where many of its students are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some of them Polynesian, it remains pathetic.

How much prejudice has been fed through the years by way of that kind of probe? Was it meant to discriminate against an individual of one group to advance the cause of an individual of another group?

Why bring any of that up at all?

A good football coach is a good football coach, regardless of race, regardless of cultural background, regardless of religion.

The responsible thing to do here is to await the outcome of the investigation, and hope like hell that it is thorough, proper and just. Nobody wants to see an innocent person falsely accused of impropriety. But when an entire football team, or a large portion of it, perceives something to be unfair and unjust, that’s a problem.

In the meantime, the more who speak out against instances of what they perceive to be biased, so they can be investigated, whether it comes from among the powerful, the weak, the enlightened or the ignorant, the more stupidity will be rooted out.

Simply staying quiet, accepting the unacceptable, is not acceptable.

The Aggies, right or wrong, seem to know that.

GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.

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