People will get offended by anything these days.
That’s the hypothesis University of Arizona Alumni Josh Miller set out to test when he launched a tongue-in-cheek petition on Change.org last week calling on rival Arizona State University to stop “using Satan as its mascot."
In the petition, Miller, a 37-year-old financial adviser who lives in Scottsdale, argued that referring to ASU students as “Sun Devils” was offensive to “all good, non-devil worshippers in the world,” and Sparky, ASU’s horned, gold and burgundy mascot, “scares children and causes nightmares.”
“Satan is a symbol of evil,” he wrote. “The world will be a better place when all images of Satan, including the ‘Sun Devil’ mascot and symbol are eliminated.”
Miller was inspired to take a jab at ASU after U of A officials made the announcement last week that its football team would no longer rev up for games with a New Zealand Maori war dance, as it has since 2009. The school ditched the tradition after a California State University, Northridge, anthropology professor created a petition accusing the team of cultural appropriation.
Christina Campbell, who is originally from New Zealand, said she was insulted by how poorly the football players performed the dance, called the Ka Mate haka, which has deep cultural, and spiritual meaning to many. Her petition, filed after she saw the Wildcats perform on ESPN, garnered national media attention and more than 1,800 signatures. U of A got roasted on social media.
Does Arizona have an abnormally high population of Maori? Why do they do the Haka?— bovilexia (@hokiefan104) September 27, 2015
American friends, can y'all talk to the Arizona Wildcats and tell them it's not okay for them to perform/butcher the Ka mate haka ... ????— kimberley (@lordeella) September 28, 2015
Can Arizona please not try and copy the Haka, it's a rugby thing and you make it like shite— gareth (@Lumpy1405) September 27, 2015
I want Arizona to lose b/c they did the haka dance..needs to stop— Chris Mckenzie (@its_mckenz_bro) September 27, 2015
Miller, however, thought the whole situation was "ridiculous," he said. He wasn't convinced that there was anything wrong with the tradition, which was started by a group of Polynesian players who wanted to share a part of their culture with the Wildcats.
“People are just so ready to be offended,” he said. "No matter how valid the argument, they’ll jump on any cause.”
True to his prediction, Miller's satirical petition, which he shared on Twitter and a U of A Facebook fan page, quickly amassed hundreds of signatures and attracted the attention of several local media outlets.
It's pretty clear that many of the people who got riled up about the issue on social media were just trash-talking U of A and ASU students.
Hail Satan!!! Go ASU!!— Jooj (@JawadSquad) October 4, 2015
Our last family pic before Sean headed off to become Satan or a sun devil or whatever the mascot is down at ASU. ???? pic.twitter.com/TA8ZzJCxTc— Cameron Erman (@cameronerman) August 24, 2015
But it appears the issue struck a chord with at least some people.
On change.org, Gertrude McGillicuddy wrote that her 7- and 10-year-old sons, although they are die-hard ASU fans, won't wear Sparky's picture on T-shirts. "They say not only does 'Sparky' look like he would HURT them, he looks like he would 'EAT children, too!" she wrote. "I have to say I agree with them."
Miller shut down the experiment after a 12 News reporter asked him to go on camera with his grievances against Sparky, deciding it had "gone far enough." He replaced the letter on change.org calling on ASU to depose the Sun Devil with a note declaring the whole thing a mockery.
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"If you got the joke," he added, "good for you."
ASU’s newspaper, the State Press, responded with an editorial clarifying that Sparky is a “sun” devil.
“Satan comes from hell, which I believe is somewhere underground, not in space,” Austen Bundy wrote.
The prank was a “nice try,” he wrote, but “it’s going to take a lot more than that to get us to bow down."