Many people were upset that Michigan State fans were chanting “Hitler” at Michigan’s Moe Wagner during the Big Ten Tournament semifinal game Saturday in New York City.
Turns out, though, that that is not actually what happened. I reached out to members of the Izzone — Michigan State’s student section — and members of the Michigan State Band that were in attendance, for clarification. James O’Neil, a senior Alto Saxophonist in the Spartan Brass, responded:
Some of the band members were doing research and discovered Moe Wagner’s birth name is Victor. When he went to the free throw line we decided to chant his old name in an effort to throw him off. There was no racial or wrongful motivation behind it. We realized only after the game was over that some people across the loud arena were hearing the name “Hitler” as our voices got muffled and distorted in a busy atmosphere.
This was not at all what we were trying to communicate. Chants like that are unsportsmanlike, mean spirited, and not the least bit funny. I apologize to anyone who got the wrong message from what we were saying. People should be able to rest easy knowing that our director would have punished us severely if we had chanted something so heinous. Not to mention, we were surrounded by Madison Square Garden staff, and MSG policy forbids racially motivated jeers or chants.
The rivalry is intense, but every band member has friends at Michigan. We would never even think to stoop so low. In the end, it’s just basketball and in the end, we all love each other.
Also, a section leader of the Izzone, Casey Copp, confirmed that the student section has used this tactic — chanting the opposing player’s first name — in the past, albeit with not much success.
We did it for Nigel Hayes when Wisconsin came to Breslin 2 years ago and last year. People tried it this year with Isaac Haas but he kept scoring so it stopped.
I’m sure that those who breathlessly shared this unconfirmed rumor on social media will be just as adamant in sharing the correct information. Also looking at you, The Big Lead, The Spun, et all — I’m sure your updated stories will be out soon.