Antler ejections spark controversy

Cheering section has been escorted out of two straight non-conference games.

§     Two home wins in Missouri’s (5-0) young season have yielded as much resentment as jubilation at Mizzou Arena.

Thanksgiving break victories over Gardner-Webb and IUPUI have seen the ejection of The Antlers, a famed student-loyalist group, over a “pattern of unruly behavior,” according to event staff and the group’s members.

Saturday against Gardner-Webb, the group was ejected before the game began as the Bulldogs ran off the floor after pregame shoot-around.

Monday against IUPUI, it was kicked out with 12 seconds remaining in the first half.

Junior Emmett Delaney, the group’s “grand poobah,” or president, said Saturday the group had just completed an age-old chant, “Scum, scum, scum, go back to where you’re from and die,” a group tradition dating back to its founding. Saturday, Delaney said the group changed “die” to “cry” to accommodate university requests.

Monday, he said the group, clothed in suits and wielding signs sporting butterflies, completed the chant “Pelvic thrust, churn the butter, step to the right, cop a feel” before being escorted from the student section.

Event staff said the group was being ejected for the cheer’s “sexual content.”

Disc jockeys at Mizzou Arena cued Robin Thicke’s blockbuster “Blurred Lines” and the “Kiss Cam” as they exited, Delaney said.

Delaney said Saturday the 12 group members in attendance were held in the arena hospitality room by university police and had their student ID cards and driver’s licenses confiscated before being forced to exit out the back door of the arena.

They were told, he said, they would be prosecuted for trespassing if they returned to athletic department property, which university police said included all other athletic stadiums and facilities.

Days earlier, Delaney met with Cathy Scroggs, vice chancellor for student affairs, MSA President Nick Droege, MSA Vice President Zach Beattie and other university staff to discuss The Antlers’ behavior at games.

At issue was the group’s behavior at a recent women’s basketball game, volleyball game and men’s basketball game against Hawaii at Kansas City’s Sprint Center.

Delaney said he made assurances the group would tone down its behavior and thought the meeting had a positive outcome. Days later, he said he is unsure of where those negotiations left the group.

“It’s frustrating for us just because of the lack of communication,” he said.

At that meeting, he said the group, which is not sanctioned by the university, was encouraged to publically apologize or participate in what they called “image-building” activities like diversity training or green dot training.

One attendee suggested the group bring signs to games that read “I’m sorry.” Several other staff said communication from higher levels of the athletic department and Department of Student Life said the group was not held in good graces around university administrators.

Scroggs, Droege and Beattie did not return phone calls from The Maneater.

“We have high expectations for our fans, and those weren’t met,” men’s basketball team spokesman Dave Reiter said Saturday.

Since their founding in the 1970s, The Antlers have been the target of both criticism and praise from the university and athletics community for their fierce and rowdy support of the Tigers’ mens’ basketball program.

Delaney said even before his meeting with Scroggs, the group had been trying to tone down some of its cheers. He admitted some are vulgar and off-color, and this year’s Antlers wanted to move toward a more creative theme.

“We’re better than some of those cheap jokes that were made at earlier games,” he said.

The Antlers have been suspended at least once in each decade of the group’s existence and often return for the season’s remainder as “The Gorillas,” wearing their black long-sleeve T-shirts inside-out.

Delaney said he hopes the group doesn’t have to resort to that tactic to regain entry.

Junior and group leader Kasey Devine said the group often requests feedback from athletics officials and even basketball coaches themselves.

Before the season began, the group took men’s coach Frank Haith and his family out to dinner. Prior to every game both this season and last, associate head coach Tim Fuller gives the group a pep-talk and scouting report on the Tigers’ opponent.

Devine says the group has a friendly relationship with staffers who check tickets and approve signs at the gate.

“We welcome suggestions from event staff because, if they don’t like it, we’ll find better ways to offer support,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re here to offer fan support for the team.”


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