A spokesman for the University of Minnesota is apologizing on behalf of the school after its mascot, Goldy Gopher, mocked the prayer ritual of a member from the opposing team during a recent football game.
"It certainly wasn't his intent to offend anyone or trivialize their religion," stated Dan Wolter, director of the university’s news service, days after the incident.
“On behalf of Goldy and the University of Minnesota, I want to apologize to the Penn State player involved and anyone else who may have taken offense from this incident,” he added in a statement.
In the days after the University of Minnesota’s football team faced off against that of Penn State, fans from the latter school have expressed their outrage over how Goldy Gopher kneeled in front of defensive lineman Jerome Hayes as he prayed in the endzone prior to the game.
The video of the incident, which has been making its rounds on YouTube and other social media, shows Goldy kneeling opposite to Hayes and afterwards pretending to cry when lineman refused to shake his hand. Goldy later received a fist bump from a Minnesota cheerleader.
In comments to the school’s Daily Collegian newspaper, Hayes later said he didn’t see Goldy until after he finished praying but said the mascot was indeed mocking his prayer.
"I didn't see him because I cover my face," Hayes said. "He was mocking my prayer. When I got up, I didn't hear what he said, but he tried to shake my hand. But I wasn't trying to have any of that before the game."
On Monday, Unniversity of Minneosta spokesman Wolter said the school reiterated to Goldy the importance of exercising appropriate religious sensitivity in the future.
“The life of a mascot at a sporting event is fast-paced and enormously high-energy. This was plainly a mistake,” he stated.
Penn State went on to win that game, their homecoming, 20-0.