COLUMBIA, S.C. — The State Newspaper issued an apology to the family of Tyler Hilinski after running a headline linking their mental health awareness foundation with a loss by the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Gamecocks, who are led by quarterback Ryan Hilinski, lost to the Missouri Tigers on Saturday. The State, which serves Columbia, South Carolina, ran a headline about the game referencing the Hilinski's Hope Foundation with the Gamecocks' loss.
"Hilinski Hope Sinks," the headline read.
The Hilinskis lost their son Tyler, a quarterback at Washington State University, to suicide on January 16, 2018. He was 21 years old.
The Hilinski family started Hilinski's Hope to fund programs that will help educate, advocate and destigmatize mental illness in the across the country. The State newspaper took to Twitter as part of their efforts to issue their apology to the Hilinski family and supporters.
"Our phones started blowing up. We got a lot of apologies but we didn't understand and didn't know what they were for. We've made some new friends here in South Carolina and I think everybody was a little surprised. It certainly seems insensitive to us," said Hilinski's dad, Mark.
Since the death of Tyler the Hilinski family have always found ways to move forward in a positive direction. The family said they are doing this, once again, with the love and support of the University, and cougar family.
"We're glad to get the apology. We understand it was probably done with no malice. Maybe it was careless. I'd rather be talking about Tyler and helping young student athletes than a paper headline," Mark said.
Mark adds while news surrounding this headline is disheartening, he said it at least gives them another opportunity to publicize Hilinski's Hope Foundation and its efforts.
Ryan finished the game completing 13 of his 30 pass attempts, while gaining 166 yards, and throwing one touchdown and one interception.
After the headline ran in the print edition of the paper, many sports commentators and reporters posted about it, which led to widespread backlash and condemnation on social media.
Many people are calling on the newspaper to make a donation to the foundation, and some are saying they are cancelling their subscription to the paper and making a donation to the foundation instead.
The State issued an apology about the headline, citing an error in the editing process that led to the headline making it to the final copy of the paper.
The University of South Carolina president, athletics director and head football coach released a joint statement regarding the headline, which was retweeted by Hilinski's hope on Monday:
"Hilinksi'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."