Green College Sports

Big Media Coverage of Climate Protest at Harvard-Yale Game; Group of Michigan and Ohio State Fans to Say Climate Crisis Bigger than Rivalry


Climate activists are inserting themselves into two of college football’s most storied end-of-season rivalry matchups.

In New Haven, protesters from Harvard and Yale peacefully disrupted the 136th edition of “The Game” at halftime.

Over 690 miles to the west in Ann Arbor, a group of Ohio State and Michigan students and fans will put their longstanding animus on hold Saturday, teaming up outside Michigan Stadium (aka The Big House) for a pre-game rally. Their goal is to show the states’ Republican and Democratic U.S. senators that joining hands across the aisle on climate is the way to go, Red vs. Blue rivalry be damned.

And the media is paying attention, which may be the most important news of all.



The annual Harvard-Yale football game (aka The Game) at the Yale Bowl in New Haven was delayed for 48 minutes at the end of halftime when hundreds of people, including an estimated 150 students from both schools, stormed the field. According to The Guardian and other media reports, the protesters demanded that the universities divest from their investments in fossil fuel companies.

One group of fans took part in a sit-in on the field that evoked Vietnam War-era on-campus protests. A gaggle stood behind them with a large sign that read: “Nobody Wins: Yale & Harvard are complicit in climate injustice.” Another read: “Yale and Harvard students united for climate justice.”


Yale and Harvard kickers warm up for the second half amidst climate protesters (Photo credit: ESPN)


According to ESPNU’s broadcast, police peacefully escorted protestors off the field two at a time, with some asking to be arrested.

At least some of the players knew about it in advance. Harvard captain Wesley Ogsbury offered his support via a video before taking the field, per this tweet from Divest Harvard.



In a statement, Yale labeled the protests launched by demonstrators as “regrettable,” and said that while the institution “stands firmly for the right to free expression,” it does “not allow disruption of university events.”

Once the peaceful disruption ended, Yale made a dramatic comeback from a 22-3 third quarter deficit, forcing overtime on the last play of the game. In the extra session, and with darkness descending¹ thanks largely to the protest, Yale won 50-43 on a Zane Dudek touchdown.

But even though the win earned the Bulldogs a share of the Ivy League title with Dartmouth, the protest became the story among an all-star lineup of the largest, most influential sports and news media outlets, in the U.S. and beyond. ABC News, BBC, CBS News, CNN, ESPN, Fox News, The Guardian, NBC News, The New York Times, NPR, Reuters, The Sydney Morning Herald, TSN², and The Washington Post all reported on the civil disobedience action led by Fossil Free Yale and Divest Harvard.


GSB’s Take: I hope that Divest Harvard and Fossil Free Yale kept close track of how many people saw, heard or read about the halftime protest.

Our bet is that the viewership/listenership/readership numbers, if tabulated, will be massive. The audience could be the largest for a climate-sports story since the climate change-themed vignette at the 2016 Rio Olympics opening ceremonies. 

Yes, sports can and must be a powerful platform for action on climate.

Great, great work by Divest Harvard, Fossil Free Yale and the protesters. 



When the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines renew their annual rivalry in Ann Arbor on Saturday, there will be much more on the line, football-wise, than at the Harvard-Yale game.

Will the visiting Buckeyes maintain their undefeated season? Or will Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh finally get his first win over “that school down South,” and, in the process, do serious damage to their rival’s College Football Playoff prospects?

But the most compelling question may be this:

Is climate change bigger than rivalry, even one as legendary and bile-filled as Ohio State-Michigan?

A group of climate-minded students and fans from both schools aims to show this is the case.

They will gather at a joint rally a few blocks from Michigan Stadium (aka The Big House) 90 minutes before game time. Most will don Michigan (Maize and) Blue while some will wear Ohio State Red.

And all of them will accessorize with purple cheek stripes.

Why purple?

Here’s why: If red-hued Ohio State and blue-attired Michigan supporters can overcome their animus and come together in purple-tinted solidarity, so too can Red Republicans and Blue Democrats come together to forge meaningful, purple (aka bi-partisan) climate action in Congress.

The rally is being organized by the University of Michigan and Columbus, Ohio chapters of Citizens’ Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL)³.

CCL’s national army of volunteer lobbyists is working on behalf of bi-partisan carbon pricing legislation, namely the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA) of 2019, aka H.R. 763.

According to the organization, EICDA will, once passed by Congress and signed into law by a President, reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent within the first 12 years. It is estimated that the revenue neutral carbon pricing policy would create 2.1 million net new jobs over the first 10 years.

The assiduously bi-partisan CCL believes that politicians of all stripes, left and right, Red and Blue need to meet in the middle to enact meaningful climate solutions. Thus they are using the #FarMiddle hashtag and the website to promote the pre-game gathering. Michigan students also produced this clever video:



Hallie Fox, the vice president of CCL’s University of Michigan chapter, says the goal of the rally is decidedly Deep Purple.

“Our primary ask is for Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, to team up with one of Michigan’s two Democratic senators, Gary Peters or Debbie Stabenow, to join the senate’s bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus,” said the senior political science major. “Any Democrat who wants to join the caucus must bring a Republican with him or her, so we think this is a great approach for our joint Michigan-Ohio State team to take.”


Hallie Fox, vice president for CCL’s University of Michigan chapter (Photo credit: Hallie Fox)


Ohio State-Michigan is the second college football rivalry game Far Middle is playing in this season. As reported by GSB, the group worked to purple-ize “The Holy War”, the annual Red (University of Utah) vs. Blue (Brigham Young University) grudge match in the Beehive State. Far Middle appealed to Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) to support the EICDA. To date, that support has not yet been forthcoming but Utah’s junior senator has joined the Climate Solutions Caucus.


A #FarMiddle student dons purple cheek stripes in advance of the Utah-BYU “Holy War” rivalry game in August (Photo credit: Far Middle)


GSB’s Take: Will the #FarMiddle-ites take their Purple Power climate protest from the rally on the corner of East Davis and Main in Ann Arbor on to the field at The Big House?

The audience will be exponentially bigger than for Harvard-Yale, both in person — a crowd of more than 107,000 people is expected — and on TV.

There is no indication such a move is planned but perhaps the Harvard-Yale protest will provide the inspiration.

Watch this space, and the Ohio State-Michigan game.


¹ Yale Bowl, which opened in 1914, doesn’t have lights
² TSN is the ESPN of Canada
³ Full disclosure: I have been a CCL volunteer since 2014



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