The starting quarterback for the South Carolina football team is Ryan Hilinski, whose brother was the starting quarterback at Washington State, Tyler Hilinski, before taking his own life in January of 2018. To honor Tyler, the family created the “Hilinski’s Hope” foundation, which was created to “fund programs that will help educate, advocate and destigmatize mental illness.”
This past weekend, the true freshman Hilinski, who took over under center for the Gamecocks following Jake Bentley‘s season-ending injury, struggled in a 17-point loss to Missouri, completing less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing for 166 yards and an interception. Following the game, The State newspaper used a headline that read “Hilinski Hope Sinks” and ignited an utter firestorm on social media.
The headline prompted the paper to release the following apology Sunday:
Our sincerest apologies to the Hilinski family today for the unfortunate headline in our print edition today. Hilinski’s Hope works to raise awareness about mental health issues, especially for student-athletes. Although the connection between the headline and the foundation was unintentional, there is no excuse for such poor wording and we have reached out to the family and university to express our regrets.
Sunday afternoon, the USC football program released its own statement in which they lambasted the “unprofessional and irresponsible journalism” and said the apology isn’t enough.
Hilinski’s Hope means so much to the Hilinski family, their friends, Gamecock Nation, college football fans across the country and those who have been affected by someone suffering from mental illness. We were appalled to see this morning’s headline in The State newspaper that seemed cavalier about the seriousness of the mental health issue. It demonstrated a level of unprofessional and irresponsible journalism, and we find it unacceptable that the major daily newspaper in the hometown of our University would use such a headline in their game story. We don’t believe their apology is enough. We urge The State to be a leader in advocating and destigmatizing mental illness by making a very public effort to help fund and provide educational awareness to this very real problem.
Late Monday morning, the paper released yet another statement:
We are deeply sorry that a headline in The State’s print edition yesterday inadvertently referenced Hilinski’s Hope, a foundation that works to remove the stigma of mental health among student-athletes. We apologize to the Hilinski family for any pain this has caused them.
We also apologize to supporters of the foundation, to Gamecock fans and to readers and subscribers to The State.
We have been in touch with the Hilinski family to share our apology and will work with them to explore ways that we can support the important work of their foundation.
We are dedicated to the mission of strong independent local journalism that strengthens communities. This error does not reflect our aim and we will strive to ensure we do better moving forward.