Several University of Oregon football players are facing potential disciplinary action after celebrating their recent Rose Bowl win over Florida State University by chanting “no means no” — apparently in mockery of Florida’s quarterback, Jameis Winston, who was accused of sexually assault in a case that has been fraught with controversy for the past two years.
On Thursday, Oregon beat Florida State by 59-20 in the College Football Playoff semifinal. As Oregon football players celebrated their win after the game, video taken on the field shows at least three of them chanting “no means no” to the tune of a chant that’s used by Florida State fans.
The chant was almost certainly intended to target Winston, who has been embroiled in a sexual assault scandal since 2012, when a female student accused him of raping her. He has not been officially charged or sanctioned for the incident, and won the Heisman Trophy amid the ongoing controversy.
Last month, the university decided to clear Winston of any student code of conduct violations related to the rape allegations. It remains unclear exactly what occurred between the star quarterback and his accuser. Regardless of the specific details, however, there’s widespread evidence that Florida State did not adequately investigate the allegations before declining to pursue the case. The New York Times concluded that “there was virtually no investigation at all.” The woman’s attorney accused university officials of conducting “an investigation into a rape victim, not a rape suspect.”
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich has indicated that he will discipline the players who participated in the “no means no” taunt, releasing a statement that referred to the chant as “inappropriate behavior.”
As schools across the country are exposed for sexual assault scandals on campus, athletic events are increasingly being transformed into protest sites. At the beginning of December, for instance, students attending a basketball game between the University of Maryland and the University of Virginia chanted “no means no” in the stadium — referencing allegations about the UVA administration’s negligence toward rape cases recently reported in Rolling Stone.
And more broadly, both college and professional athletes are using their visibility to lend support to ongoing social protests. Amid a national conversation about police brutality and its implications for people of color, a growing number of athletes are playing in shirts emblazoned with “I Can’t Breathe” — the last words spoken by Eric Garner, the New York City man who was choked to death by police officers in July.
Protesting on the field often incites controversy. Police unions and officials have called on professional athletic leagues to issue fines and suspensions for the individuals who have participated in protests for racial justice. So far, the NBA and NFL have declined to do so.