Why I did not buy a Tommie-Johnnie shirt

Editor’s Note: Throughout the week, TommieMedia will be featuring stories on the upcoming Tommie-Johnnie game.  Make sure to check out the Tommie-Johnnie coverage page for daily updates.

I’ve seen the Facebook group and received the messages, but I will not be purchasing a Tommie-Johnnie T-shirt.

Yes, I do welcome rivalries. I have to. I am from a mixed-marriage family. Brett Favre defines my ethnic heritage: a family of Packer-loving Wisconsinites and Viking-centric Minnesotans. And, we have some Tommies and Johnnies in my family. Really, it’s miraculous we all still talk.

I think rivalries are great, especially when you throw football and beer into the mix. But when do rivalries go too far?

Seriously, that’s the best we’ve got?

As Tommies, we have the privilege of continuing a rich, historic rivalry. The tale of  O’Shaugnessy is retold to all prospective students touring the school. It’s a great story that fits my beer and football criterion.

The T-shirts for the Tommie-Johnnie game are downright crude and immature. I read the descriptions and thought, “Seriously, that’s the best we could come up with?” I honestly thought we could create something much more clever and classy than attacking our rival’s sexuality again. It is possible to be provocative and intelligent.

How would you react to a bunch of Johnnies walking around our campus wearing similar shirts slurring Tommies? Or what if a guest came over to your house wearing a shirt directly attacking your sexuality? My guess is that neither situation would end well.

Message lasts even after your mother gets ahold of it

I am the oldest of six children and the youngest is four years old. I don’t buy shirts I can’t wear in front of the younger kids. I did purchase one questionable shirt in high school, not one with a sexual innuendo, but one with wordplay based on a strong text message abbreviation. The little kids repeated it and caught on, and it was not a smart decision on my part.

If I did bring the Tommie-Johnnie shirt home, I would never see it again. My mother would destroy it. I still hear the stories about my Nana ripping my uncles’ shirts that came home in college laundry bags. Usually they had to do with Bucky Badger (yes, I’m sure you can imagine the word play here). The shirts didn’t last long, but the foul messages outlive the shirts in these stories.

Johnnies and Bennies roam our neighborhoods

I know plenty of Johnnies and Bennies, and I respect them as people and tolerate them as Division-III football fans. Yes, we have our jokes. But there’s a big difference between saying something versus having it screen-printed, manufactured and sold.

The messages on the shirts can be taken out of context when seen by an outsider, and what kind of an impression is that?

Even though we live in St. Thomas territory, Bennies and Johnnies still roam the neighborhood. Just a warning: it is hard to tell who they are because they are not always sporting derogatory shirts about St. Thomas. You could be offending a future employer, neighbor or friend.

We don’t have to be best friends

One of my favorite commercials is the series of NFL ads showing rival football fans coming together as  “Why can’t we be friends?” plays in the background. Now, I’m not saying we’re all going to be best buddies with Bennies and Johnnies, especially when we’re cheering for the Tommies to win.  But we can still get along and respect each other.

So, I have decided not to buy a Tommie-Johnnie T-shirt. I do not want to support the stupid, disgusting jokes. I challenge St. Thomas students to be more creative. If someone does come up with something witty and original, I will be one of the first people to buy it.

Theresa Malloy can be reached at mall5754@stthomas.edu.

20 Replies to “Why I did not buy a Tommie-Johnnie shirt”

  1. Great article! I agree wholeheartedly – and I’m glad USG gives out t-shirts with slogans that support Tommies without being crude and disrespectful.

  2. Thank you, that is PRECISELY why I choose not to purchase a shirt. My uncle is a Johnnie and I cannot even imagine what his reaction would be if he saw such a shirt.

  3. Yeah those shirts are ridiculous.  Thankfully, the majority of our campus does not purchase them, but I wish UST would do more to stop the sale of these offensive shirts.  In my freshman year I called public safety and had them (temporarily) kicked out of Ireland hall after they came to my door trying to sell the offensive shirts.  Sadly, there’s some of these rich kids (dare I say the r-word?) who are only here for themselves.  The UST code of conduct prohibits behavior which could “cause embarrassment to the university.”  I think the offensive shirts are a perfect example, and anybody caught wearing them should be sanctioned.  But maybe I’m just crazy.

  4. Thanks for the great article! I’ve seen inappropriate Tommie-Johnnie T-Shirts too. A friendly rivalry is one thing, and there are shirts that are made that are in good taste. However, we shouldn’t be sporting shirts that display disgusting and provocative messages about our rivals. It hurts others and it reflects poorly on the UST community as a whole when people do things like that.
    Thanks again for writing this article. I think it expressed an important message.

  5. Hey t-shirt entrepreneurs, how about taking up the challenge: go for something witty, creative or brilliant instead of misogynistic or homophobic.

    Thank you Theresa for your thoughtful article. Your message is important for our campus and our nation. We have this same choice to make in our political and cultural discourse. So Tommies, instead of using the lowest forms of speech, let’s set the bar high and become an example for others to follow.

  6. Thanks for this article, Theresa. I have $20 for the first person that makes a giant mouse-trap image on a purple t-shirt in support of the Tommies beating the Johnnies. (Their mascot is a rat, in case you didn’t know…) Many of the Tommie-Johnnie shirts over the years have been very disappointing. I’m surprised to hear in the comments that UST doesn’t have STAR or USG or otherwise sanctioned Tommie-Johnnie shirts this year. For the volume of t-shirts that are given away on campus and the lack of positive slogans for T-J games, I’m a little surprised that T-J shirts aren’t funded year-in and year-out. (Then again, everyone should already have some UST gear by now!) Regardless, be safe this weekend and have fun. Let’s bring back that W and represent well while our team beats those Johnnies at their own Homecoming.

  7. I believe these shirts have a right to exist simply because they are ridiculous. I seriously doubt many students will wear these shirts after the Game is done, and if the people whom these students run into think poorly of the wearer, that is the risk the student takes. That’s the thing about jokes-the truly funny ones will always offend a zealot somewhere along the line. And if this joke is made at the expense of our rivals, all the better. That is college humor, and while it is not appropriate business humor, that is something The Administration has to balance. So please do not sanitize the crude side of UST’s culture simply because you do not partake in it.

  8. Thanks for a great article Theresa. Also, want to let students know that Jane Canney, Vice President for Student Affairs has purchased 200 shirts that will be given away at the game for students that either do not have an appropriate shirt or Tommie apparel.

  9. I’m completely behind Bryce on this one. If you don’t desire to wear the shirt, then don’t purchase one. But consider the fact that we are all adults here and as such, we can partake in adult humor if we wish. We as individuals make the decision for ourselves to partake in this humor, and literally wear that decision for others to see. As far as someone possibly getting offended, there is ALWAYS someone that’s going to be offended. Suppose we have a militant member of P.E.T.A. in our community, with swift and zealous perspectives on animal cruelty? Even the ingenious mousetrap idea is no longer “safe.” Plainly and simply, this is an effort in censorship that undermines our right to enjoy and share such forms of humor with each other, however crass or crude. Plainly and simply, you can’t always keep college at PG, when we’re all old enough (and presumably mature enough) to handle R rated humor.

  10. Richard,
    I think you miss the point. Misogyny and homophobia are not forms of humor, R-rated or otherwise.

  11. Richard, I think the point thats being made is these events not only draw the college students but also families, alumni who bring their children. So while college students may be able to handle R rated humor, what about those parents who want to keep their children from seeing such humor.  If the event were strictly college students you may have more of a point but again, its the family environment that makes these shirts unacceptable.

  12. Theresa, as your mother… you’re right …I would destroy any offensive piece of garbage you brought into my house.  Your father and I, as alumni, would be disappointed that you acted like a third grader with a bad case of potty mouth and not the educated young woman we’ve hoped you’d become.  I would be upset with an administration that condoned this behavior just because we have the right to freedom of speech.  Just because something can be said doesn’t mean it should be said.  I’m happy with your choice.  Thanks! Love, Mom

  13. Thanks for a very well stated opinion Theresa. My huband is a Johnnie and my graduate degree is from SJU. We are the proud parents of a Tommie football player. We will be sporting the beautiful UST gear in beautiful purple. I am certain your parents are very proud of your respectul attitude and courage to speak out, as I have told my boys when such decisions arise, Remember, you are better than that! Go Tommies !

  14. In the wake of several suicides of LGBTQ students across the country this week, are we really trying to say that directly attacking someone’s sexuality is all in good fun? The shirts are pushing our community further into bigotry and marginalize more than half our campus (women + LBGTQ). I’ve heard a lot of people say things like “yeah, but its tradition” or “but its a friend of mine making the shirts.” Thats a cop out and we should really work toward building a more inclusive campus culture.

  15. I’m with Bryce. This issue is being completely over analyzed. Someone presents an argument, someone else branches from that argument, etc. Next thing you know, the entire picture is lost and it’s some grand ordeal. It’s simply college students (majority being young adults) making jokes and poking fun at eachother. We have the rest of our life to be mature, let me wear a T-Shirt that bashes our greatest school rivalry during one football game out of the year.

  16. I am Bennie and I agree with this article.  When I was a freshman I was shocked at the attack upon both schools, based on not only the student’s sexuality also attacks launched on the female population. Every T-J game ever since has gotten progressively worse. I feel deeply offended and sometimes wonder what insults about the female population at each school has to do with the football game occurring. After all the rivalry is between the Saint John’s and Saint Thomas football teams. Its college, shouldn’t the intellects at each school devise a more articulate manner in expressing themselves without infringing on the rights of others: ” the right to be treated with dignity.”

  17. I don’t care for the T shirts. But, making a big deal out of T shirts. Really? We are endowed with discretion to chose how to act and have the freedom to buy or not buy a T shirt. This renders me justly responsible for my actions, omissive as well as commissive. Brian, I too would buy the mouse trap T-shirt. Karen, Have Jane take some of that free T shirt money and build some tennis courts. Lower price parking would be nice too.

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