Smile Politely

Read Josh Whitman’s open letter to Illini fans

It’s been an exciting season for Illini basketball, and a riled up fan base always comes with a fair amount of trash talking directed at opposing players. There have been a few instances this season where some have taken it too far. In Sunday’s game against Iowa, a chant encouraging Kris Murray to “(expletive) kill yourself” led Murray’s father to reach out to Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman and the basketball staff. Whitman released an open letter today, apologizing and admonishing fans to do better.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to step into the arena at this level, we know that when the lights turn on, we cross from known to unknown, from control to chaos, from secure to unstable. Student-athletes and coaches expect to be heckled by opposing fans. This is a tradition of sport and is something we celebrate in State Farm Center and Memorial Stadium: the opportunity to create an advantage in your home venue based, in part, on how uncomfortable the home team’s fans can make an opponent. As a rule, make it hard, but don’t make it hurt. It’s a subtle distinction, but one that’s incredibly important. As with many things in life, there is always a line. Good sportsmanship requires it. Human decency and mutual respect define it. And this season, some number of Fighting Illini fans regularly crossed it. We become what we are willing to tolerate. And we cannot tolerate this.

Stay classy Illini nation. 

Top photo from

Staff writer

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