Context is everything. It's one thing to defiantly say "we don't need your permission" if you're a teenager looking to make a statement about your independence. It's another when it's coming from a football program that's only two years removed from a high profile sexual assault scandal. Vanderbilt fits into the latter category, and this is a bad tweet:
We are RELENTLESS, TOUGH AND INTELLIGENT, and... pic.twitter.com/gWrXidJ89r— VandyFootball (@VandyFootball) August 6, 2015
This is...unfortunate. With one graphic, Vanderbilt has fallen into the same trap that Bud Light did when they printed labels that advised drinkers to "remove the word 'no' from their vocabulary." It's vague and suggestive enough to lead readers in any direction they want - and with the Commodores still associated with a rape scandal that landed four former players in handcuffs, many people have taken the darkest path.
The program deleted the tweet by the afternoon, but the damage was done. It's been criticized across Twitter and publicized over at Deadspin. The next link in the chain is a public apology for a poorly-worded release and the promise to do better in the future.
Is it overly sensitive to connect a preseason hype graphic to sexual assault? Maybe - but it's still the first thing that many people are going to think of when they see it. It was never going to be a winning campaign, and a quick review in the athletic department would have been able to keep the program from looking foolish. Instead, a day that should have been focused on Vanderbilt football opening camp and the leak of a pair of new helmet designs has been hijacked by some thoughtless phrasing. Even if you disagree that the image was tasteless, you can't deny that this is sapping attention away from the recent positive turns this team had taken.
EDIT: Here's Vanderbilt's official apology.
We apologize for today’s tweet. It’s not a comment about sexual assault. Sex without permission is always wrong and not accepted. (1/2)— VandyFootball (@VandyFootball) August 6, 2015
Sexual assault is not acceptable at Vanderbilt University, Vanderbilt Athletics and Vanderbilt Football. (2/2)— VandyFootball (@VandyFootball) August 6, 2015