Under the Button is part of a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Penn Football's Private Group Chat Leaks, and It's Actually Really Nice

Credit: Julia Schorr

With the leaks of highly offensive group chats and other online communications within all-male sports teams at Harvard University and Columbia University still fresh on the minds of many, perhaps it made sense to expect the worst when the Penn football team's entire group chat leaked late on the night of March 27. The leak included photos, videos, and thousands upon thousands of messages. Refreshingly, there was no need for alarm.

None of the countless leaked messages contained any evidence of offensive or misogynistic language. On the few occasions the players discussed women other than their mothers (always in a respectful tone), the subject was never sexual or aesthetic.

"This girl in my chem class really knows her stuff," one running back said. "Is it weird to ask her to study next weekend?" His teammates offered nuanced and thoughtful perspectives, and he opted to meet her at the library to avoid any unintentional hint of romantic subtext.

Breaking away from even the tamest of student group chats, there was very little swearing at all. When one member of the offensive line said that he was "excited as hell" for the team's next game, he quickly followed the message with an apology: "Sorry guys, should have said heck. No reason to use the double hockey stick word, and I take full responsibility."

The content of the leaked messages is overwhelmingly positive, in stark contrast to the cases of Columbia and Harvard's teams. One notable exchange, for example, was a 15-message thread about a player's little brother and his piano recital. After the player sent a video of his brother playing, the chat quickly filled with messages like "Awesome job, little man!" and "So good to see that kids are still being encouraged to pursue music. That's good parenting," among others.

Other surprising moments included a 70-message thread, in which the football players debated Meryl Streep's best film. While unanimous in their respect for her talents, they were divided in regards to her greatest work. Eventually, although they all loved "The Devil Wears Prada," the team decided that the 2002 film "Adaptation" best allowed Streep's immense abilities to shine through. 

The Penn Women's Center released a statement about the leak, saying, "We are very happy that the messages were so overwhelmingly respectful and tolerant. Our first assumption when we heard their chat had leaked, given what has happened at other schools, was that this would be ugly." 

The statement wasn't entirely congratulatory though. "That said," it continued, "'Adaptation' is hardly Streep's best film. It's a shame that these young men could hold such a distasteful view when her role in 'Sophie's Choice' is so obviously more impressive."