4th and 10

Activists took the field at halftime of the annual Harvard-Yale football game to protest climate investments of both schools. And the clock continues to tick...

November 25, 2019

3:48 pm

It’s not surprising to see a Hail Mary pass in a football game. The surprising part, though, would be that it occurred during half time of the game in question. 

Oh, and that the pass was not thrown by players, but was more of a metaphorical pass by non-players, who had taken the field in protest — a 4th and 10, if you will, in that we have 10 years to make dramatic changes to our energy habits if we have any hope to save the planet.

This past Saturday, at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, students from both Harvard and Yale interrupted the 136th edition of the Harvard-Yale football rivalry to protest both schools’ — and the country’s — reliance on fossil fuels.

“Divestment is our tactic, but climate justice is our goal,” said the groups behind the protest on a website they seem to have launched as part of this effort, nobodywins.2019.home.blog: “Harvard and Yale collectively manage over $70 billion, with investments in the fossil fuel industry, illegal Puerto Rican debt, and the prison industrial complex. As the climate emergency escalates, our most vulnerable communities — people living in poverty, people of color, women, and youth — will be disproportionately affected at every systemic level. Universities have an imperative to recognize the intersectionality of climate justice and divest from these unethical, extractive and exploitative industries.”

As per collegiate-football rules, every game has a 15-minute halftime break between the second and third quarter, which in this instance began around 1:40 pm. It is the custom for schools’ bands to perform during this time, and after the Yale band had played its set, student protesters from both schools started to stream onto the field in a pre-planned coordinated protest action.

As reported by ESPN, “Players were stretching and warming up when the protesters first took the field. Police in yellow vests lined up alongside the sit-in but did not intervene. When the 15-minute halftime expired and the protest continued, the players returned to the locker room as dozens more fans streamed onto the field to join in. Fans remaining in the stands began to boo, but only briefly. The public-address announcer implored the group to leave, repeating, ‘As a courtesy to both teams, the game must resume.’ Protesters responded by chanting, ‘OK, boomer.’ "

Other protesters chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, fossil fuels have got to go.

NPR added that protesters unfurled “banners with slogans like ‘Nobody wins. Yale and Harvard are complicit in climate injustice,’ ” and that “protesters from both schools called on the universities to divest their multi-million dollar endowments from fossil-fuels companies, as well as companies that hold Puerto Rican debt.”


According to the Connecticut Post, one of those arrested was actor Sam Waterston, the Academy Award-winning star most famous for his TV role of prosecutor Jack McCoy on “Law & Order.”

“I’m here,” Waterson, a Yale alumni, said in a statement, “because I hope the students’ determination, and maybe my joining in, will give some heart to the great majority of us who know we are in the middle of a climate emergency, but are paralyzed by the size of the challenge, so that we will take courage from these young people to speak up ourselves; that, seeing them, we’ll feel a new confidence in our numbers and strength, and in our power to move even a mountain of inertia and resistance as big as this one.”

The three organizing groups behind the coordinated protest — Fossil Free Yale, the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, and Fossil Fuel Divest Harvard — also put out a statement on nobodywins.2019.home.blog:

"Harvard and Yale claim their goal is to create student leaders who can strive toward a more 'just, fair, and promising world' by 'improving the world today and for future generations.' Yet by continuing to invest in industries that mislead the public, smear academics, and deny reality, Harvard and Yale are complicit in tearing down that future."

And, as Emily Atkin noted on her popular climate blog Heated, the protest got the attention of a number of Democratic Presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who both tweeted their support.

A student spokesman for Divest Harvard, Caleb Schwartz, said Saturday's protest was the result of months of coordination. "This is a very deliberate choice of targeting this specific [game] to get our action out there,” Schwartz told ESPN.

Earth’s Call won’t report on which team actually won, because the point of the protest was to call attention to the climate emergency, not the game. For the score results, check out a sports publication.

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