ESPN's Reilly wants '60,000 signs' to defy UVA ban
Communist China, Fidel Castro, and the University of Virginia. What do all these things have in common? According to ESPN commentator Rick Reilly, all three of them are guilty of "good ol' fashioned totalitarianism," ever since last week, when UVA brass decided to ban all signs at sporting events.
The university first enforced the ban at the home football opener against Southern California last Saturday, with ushers insisting that fans dump their homemade signs into the garbage cans placed adjacent to each entrance to Scott Stadium. If Reilly has his way, they're going to need more than garbage cans to contain what's coming.
"Bring signs that say nothing. Bring signs that say, 'This Is Not a Sign,'" implores Reilly in a column published on ESPN.com yesterday. "Or bring 60,00 signs and let the athletic department goons try to sort them out."
Reilly also sought out the opinion of former UVA president and current director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Speech Robert O'Neil. While O'Neil isn't quoted condemning the decision, he does point out that it will be difficult to enforce.
"We don't quite know what constitutes a sign," says O'Neil. "Paint on someone's chest? A T-shirt? It's not quite clear."
For right now, it seems the sign ban doesn't extend to chests and stomachs. Plenty of students who turned out to Scott Stadium for the game against USC came spelling out pro-UVA messages like "G-O-W-A-H-O-O-S."
How will Reilly's call to sign-waving arms play out? Well, it could wash out, as Tropical Storm Hanna is slated to drop at least an inch of rain on this Saturday's home game against Richmond and deliver enough wind to wrest any sign from the grip of all but the most ardent free speech supporters. Maybe next time.