Ed Orgeron will be out as the head football coach at LSU at the end of the season. Hopefully he takes his penchant for homophobia with him.
As he arrived at the Rose Bowl to open the season against UCLA, Orgeron was greeted by Bruins fan David Witzling, among others. Instead of ignoring Witzling, Orgeron engaged with the fan.
“Bring your ass on in your little sissy blue shirt,” Orgeron hollered.
LSU went on to lose that game, 38-27.
After their team’s win, UCLA fans quickly jumped on the “sissy blue” comment, turning it into a badge of honor. National figures used the term to troll Orgeron.
4th quarter update:— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) September 5, 2021
Sissy Blue Shirts 38
The official UCLA football Twitter account even got in on the act, putting “sissy blue” as their header image on Twitter and sharing a video with the line. That was quickly taken down.
“Our core values include equity, diversity, and inclusion,” said UCLA Bruins spokesperson Scott Markley when asked a couple weeks ago. “The graphic you note was taken down shortly after it was posted as we do not condone any association of the phrase with our department or teams.”
Still, “sissy blue” has lingered. Witzling quickly created a “sissy blue” T-shirt line that popped up online, and so far at least four UCLA football players — including Obi Eboh, Alec Anderson and Brittain Brown — have signed NIL deals endorsing the line. Witzling is hoping to sign more UCLA athletes to the brand and create various merchandise items, “so that the platform can serve student athletes across many sports at UCLA.”
Orgeron’s next opponent is getting in on the act, with the official Twitter account of Ole Miss football just this week becoming the latest to use it:
Make no mistake: Orgeron’s original use of the term was homophobic. When Orgeron called UCLA “a bunch of sissies” — and make no mistake, that’s what he meant — he didn’t mean it as a compliment.
A couple weeks later, a Los Angeles sports radio commentator said the UCLA defense had lived up to its new “sissy blue” monicker when they had a poor game against Fresno State.
The root of the term is homophobic, pure and simple. Sissy equals weak.
Still, the reclamation of the word is getting interesting. We just saw the football team at Mississippi embrace wearing what they now call “sissy blue.” Even if some Rebels fans are shuddering at the thought of their team in some form of powder blue, the embrace of the term by Ole Miss football is no small thing.
There is also clearly no intent by Witzling to harm the LGBTQ community here, through his project.
While some gay people may not like to see the word “sissy” thrown around weeks after that LSU-UCLA game, there is an interesting dynamic developing, seeing mostly straight guys embrace the label of “sissy” in our society’s most macho of sports.
Part of this feels like a strange cultural appropriation, with a bunch of straight guys reclaiming a word that’s bothered gay men for years. Yet Witzling said he has gotten support from gay Bruins fans, with one sharing their support in an email to him:
I am in on Sissy Blue. Particularly good for those of us who are gay alumni. Thanks for doing this for the team. Please put me on the mailing list so I know when the shirts are available. They might make a great holiday present for friends who are also alums. And screw his heteronormative BS.
One high school administrator who spoke to Outsports said these shirts would likely be allowed at school because the intent of the shirt was to build community, not harm a community.
When UCLA softball coach Kirk Walker got wind of the term, he expressed serious concern that people would now feel they had the license to attack others with the term. Yet by seeing so many UCLA fans — and now Ole Miss — embrace the term, that word as a line of attack has possibly lost some punch.
“I think that idea of taking away the power of a word is valid, when you talk about how to deal with bullies,” said Walker, who is publicly out as gay.
I doubt we’ve heard the last of Orgeron. He got a second chance after a disastrous stint at Ole Miss, and LSU’s chance on Orgeron resulted in multiple Bowl wins and a national title.
Plus, don’t think for a second his homophobic language per se had much, if anything, to do with his firing. While one ESPN report said some brass at LSU were concerned that “the face of the LSU program was making a crass comment to a fan,” the LSU athletics department did not return multiple requests by Outsports for comment.
Few athletic directors who would give Orgeron another shot would care that he called UCLA a bunch of sissies. If he called a gay player a sissy or some other slur? That would have more of an impact. But this banter with a fan?
It’s “just locker room talk.”
I’ll admit, the first time I heard about this “sissy blue” I had a big problem with it. Talking to people and listening, my biggest concern now is that some people will feel they can use this word as an attack. I was called a “sissy” growing up. It sucked.
Using this term to attack someone else is embracing homophobia.
Yet It will be interesting to watch if and how “sissy blue” continues to evolve, with so many people embracing the term as that badge of honor. Hopefully attitudes like Orgeron’s that led to this whole debate will evolve too.