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Incident at PSU: Apologies, skepticism

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Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010

Some people doubted the appalling incident occurred.

Others were shocked and upset that it did.

There was no shortage of reaction to last Sunday's column about an interracial couple from Greensburg who were harassed at a recent Penn State University football game.

Retired Marines Linda Baker, 45, who is white, and husband, Bobby Baker, 44, who is black, repeatedly endured racist taunts from some Beaver Stadium fans and left the game early. The N-word figured prominently in the insults people hurled at them.

The Bakers' story brought to my e-mail inbox anticipated reaction from the lunatic fringe of Penn State followers. A contingent of fans evidently believes the Bakers are the driving force behind a sinister worldwide conspiracy to disparage the beloved Nittany Lions.

Several accused the Bakers of fabricating or exaggerating their story.

"That sort of unprovoked effluvia might happen at a Steeler game, but I doubt it from a PSU crowd," one alum wrote. "(This) just doesn't ring right with me. I don't think (the Bakers are) telling the entire scenario."

Wrote another: "I find it difficult to believe that the Bakers' experience at Penn State was racially charged from start to finish. Sure does sound to me like the race card, but we disagree on the party playing it."

So let's see. Two military veterans who moved to Western Pennsylvania to care for ailing parents have nothing better to do with their time than to report a detailed account of racial harassment to university officials.

The e-mails from the maniacal thankfully were countered by a number of conciliatory communiques.

"I sincerely apologize for my fellow alumni and future alumni for acting in this immature and racist fashion," one fan wrote. "True Blue-and-White fans would welcome (the Bakers') company."

A season ticketholder stated he was "appalled, shocked and embarrassed" over the taunting.

"I doubt (the Bakers) would consider ever visiting Penn State again," he wrote. "But if they would, our group would be happy to entertain them at our tailgate, and ensure that they are seated with people who will not allow a repeat of their first experience."

Those messages touched the Bakers, as did letters from Penn State President Graham Spanier and legendary football Coach Joe Paterno.

"Both my husband and I are extremely grateful for the apologetic and understanding responses that we received from so many from Penn State," Linda Baker said. "We don't think that everyone from PSU or State College is racist. Although the comments were many, we know that the majority (of fans) were there to enjoy the game like we were."

That doesn't mean the Bakers plan to make a downpayment on Nittany Lion season tickets.

"But I'm beginning to soften my stance about PSU and State College," Linda Baker said. "How could I not, especially after so many people have reached out to us in a genuinely concerned and caring manner?"




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