Why this year's Tommie-Johnnie rivalry shirts are offending people

Ah, there's something about football that brings out the meathead humor in students. Each year, the jokes are the same: Your team is lame, your women are loose and your manhood is questionable.

Take the long rivalry between the University of St. Thomas and St. John's University. Students there have a history of printing raunchy, at times obnoxious T-shirts that taunt their opponents.

"They've been around forever, these sleazy T-shirts," said St. Thomas spokesman Jim Winterer. "There's always a T-shirt flap."

But this time, with the annual game tomorrow, administrators at the universities are cracking down on what they see as T-shirts gone too far, TommieMedia reports.

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A new batch has raised an outcry from students and some parents for being especially misogynistic and homophobic. (Clarification: The jokes imply that St. John's students are gay.) At St. Thomas, for example, students face exclusion from the stadium if they wear them, and could face disciplinary action if they produce or sell them.

"These T-shirts cross the line with human dignity," Dean of Students Karen Lange told me. "We're hearing from many, many people."

I got a look at a few of the T-shirts from both this and previous years through postings on Facebook. Make sure you click on photos for both sides of the shirt.

Note: They don't contain the worst violations. Still, don't click on these links if you're easily offended:

T-shirt #1

T-shirt #2

T-shirt #3

The inclusion of St. Ben's in the whole thing seems to rub Kevin Abbas, a student senator at St. John’s, the wrong way. He told TommieMedia's Mary Kenkel:

“We have the biggest issue towards the Bennies. They’re not involved in the game. They’re just an easy target.”

Some, such as this editorial writer, see the crackdown as harsh:

I wonder if anyone in our administration has ever been to a Michigan-Ohio State game? It’s insane the kinds of stuff students say about the other schools, and, in comparison, our T-shirts look like PG-rated shenanigans. But the passion students show at those big-school games proves they care about the rivalry. They want to show their school is better. The T-shirts do the same thing for St. Thomas.

Michael Connolly, dean of students at St. Johns, said officials will be on hand at the game with a batch approved T-shirts in case students need to switch them for the offensive ones they've got on their backs. Only then will they be allowed to enter the stadium.