Days before the heated Territorial Cup game between rivals Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, there’s concern over a controversial shirt.
The design, which features the message “Make Arizona Great Again Build A Wall” and a line sectioning off Tucson as part of Mexico, is drawing criticism.
“We never want to normalize symbols or slogans that are hateful and this T-shirt normalizes it, making it casual, making it funny, it’s not,” said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, the Anti-Defamation League’s Arizona regional director.
“It marginalizes vulnerable communities and in this case, Hispanic immigrants,” he said.
ASU students question whether the T-shirt crosses the line from humor to hateful.
“The joke’s funny but a little distasteful,” said Andrew Robinson, a student.
The shirt is advertised on several local websites and social media pages. A person in support of the shirt posted to Facebook: “I’m going to Tucson and need this.”
Another offended by the message posted: “Terrible racist reference. Shame on you. Even if you mean this as a joke, Tempe is better than this.”
“It’s painful, in fact, to some members of our community and so why would we think that’s funny?” asked Galindo-Elvira. “If you think about a situation like the Holocaust, that was not an accident in our history, it wasn’t killing that started the Holocaust, it was words, it was images.”
Cactus Sports in downtown Tempe is an official ASU retailer. Renee Montoya said she’s disappointed hearing about the controversial shirt. Her philosophy is to only carry tasteful items that poke fun at ASU’s rival school not people with slogans like “No Pity for the Kitty.”
“We just try and keep everything to where it’s making fun of you a little bit, but no one is really going to get too worked up about it,” Montoya said.
“People are going to be dumb,” said Kyle Martin, a former student. “They’re going to do what they want.”
With the Southern Poverty Law Center reporting more than 700 incidents of racial harassment and intimidation nationwide since the presidential election, ASU students hope fans “Fear the Fork,” not what’s worn to the Territorial Cup Friday night.
“The whole recent election has been a pretty big triggering point for people and I feel like this is just bringing that into something completely unnecessary,” Robinson said. “There’s no reason why we need to relate the political thing to a simple football game.”