San Diego State hadn’t finished beating New Mexico last week, much less played Air Force, when its student section began chanting: “We want Jimmer!”
In response to the chant, BYU point guard Jimmer Fredette reportedly said, “They are trying to do a lot of different stuff … to try to get into my head.”
SDSU student fan R.J. Ruppel said he knows what “stuff” Fredette was referring to.
Last time the Aztecs played the BYU guard, Fredette scored 43 points in a win to become a Naismith College Player of the Year frontrunner. Both Top 10 teams will enter Saturday’s matchup with even more at stake — prompting some Aztec fans to seek a psychological advantage over Fredette.
A few weeks ago, Ruppel helped create a Facebook event inviting 7,000 SDSU fans to “poke Jimmer’s girlfriend” on Facebook. The stated mission of the event was to “disrupt, upset, distract and irritate (the) opponent.”
It was titled “Poke Jimmer Fredette’s girlfriend because Jimmer can’t poke her for himself.” The event page provided a picture of Fredette’s significant other — Cougar cheerleader Whitney Wonnacott — and a link to her Facebook profile.
Hundreds of Aztec fans subsequently prodded Wonnacott with Facebook “pokes.” Some fans friend requested her and others sent Facebook messages.
“I got a few inboxes that were just, like, kind of rude with some foul language,” Wonnacott said. “But they weren’t personally attacking me.”
Ruppel said that five days after the webpage was created, Facebook shut it down, citing harassment.
“I just started a fad; I didn’t expect anything like this,” Ruppel said. “It kind of blew up in my face.”
Some SDSU students who are unaffiliated with Ruppel are now selling “I poked Jimmer’s girlfriend” T-shirts. Aztec student Brent Duclos said he is expecting to sell 200 before the BYU game. According to Duclos and Ruppel, there were talks that local pub Effin’s was interested in sponsoring a giveaway for the shirts. Duclos said he isn’t looking to make a profit and that anyone can buy one for $10. Duclos posts his name and number on a Facebook webpage entitled “SDSU Poked Jimmer Shirts.”
SDSU administration has stated it won’t allow the shirts into the game on Saturday at Viejas Arena. Men’s basketball head coach Steve Fisher has even sent a message to the students, encouraging them to keep it classy.
Part of his message read, “It is important to remember that when you are in the student section, you represent something greater than yourself … We always encourage ‘The Show’ to continue to be the most creative, funny, and loudest student section in America, but we cannot cross the line into topics that are out of bounds and distasteful, particularly making fun of one’s religion.”
Despite Wonnacott saying the whole ordeal is rather harmless, she did disable her Facebook account for the time being. Wonnacott also said she is now “standoffish” about attending the big game.
“I think that SDSU is doing it to try and get inside of (Fredette’s) head,” Wonnacott said. “He was standing right next to me and was like, ‘It’s not getting in my head!’ … I don’t think it’s bothering him.”
While a “poke” on Facebook is an innocuous feature typically used among friends on the social networking site to acknowledge one another, the title of the event page (and now the T-shirt) is admittedly brazen with sexual innuendo according to both Ruppel and Duclos. And the innuendo is a play on Fredette’s Mormon religion, which is stereotyped for having strict views regarding premarital sex.
This is not the first time Aztec fans have taken a “poke” at Mormonism. Last year, some students dressed in bicycle helmets and missionary attire for the BYU basketball game. There are students who plan to wear the same for this year’s matchup.
Ruppel and Duclos consider the event page and T-shirts a lighthearted joke, but they’ve both received negative feedback and hate mail from people who “feel like they’re too ethically and morally righteous,” Duclos said.
Duclos said he had a 20-minute phone conversation with a Mormon woman living in San Diego who said the T-shirts cross the line.
“But this is all in good fun,” Duclos said. “Everyone’s having a good time, you know?”
“Obviously, I don’t appreciate it as (Whitney’s) older brother,” Garrett Wonnacott said. “I don’t think any of us appreciated it as members of her family.
“But it’s not like it’s the end of the world … It’s just a rivalry.”
Despite it being popularly known through the Internet that Wonnacott is Fredette’s girlfriend, her brother said no other schools have targeted his sister like this.
Ruppel said Wonnacott could’ve avoided all this — the event page, the “pokes,” T-shirts, everything.
“As soon as she started dating the Player of the Year candidate, she could have disactivated (sic) everything about her Facebook and we would have never had this problem in the first place,” Ruppel said. “But she didn’t, and she had to learn the hard way that you got to be careful with what you put out there.”
Wonnacott said she didn’t know at the time she could make her profile more private. She also said people have ways of working around privacy settings.
“I wasn’t that upset about it, I was just, I didn’t want them to say bad things about me,” Wonnacott said. “I’m not mad at all.”
But is Fredette?
Fredette plays his best basketball when he’s angry, according to brother and rap artist T.J. Fredette (you can find his music at tjfredette.com).
“It’s been times where the fans are really getting on him, or there was a lot of crazy things going on before the game — a lot of trash talk and stuff like that, and he has had some of his biggest games in those types of situations,” he said. “So he’s pretty good at using his anger to focus.”
It remains to be seen if SDSU has achieved its purpose of rattling Jimmer Fredette. But did the Aztec fans cross the line?
Or, have they merely poked at it?