...wow, even if its a "joke" http://www.dailytrojan.com/news/facebook-group-lands-usc-football-player-in-hot-water-1.206854 An inside joke on the USC football team went awry when a Facebook group sparked outrage among students. The racist Facebook group was created by a USC football player and showed a graphic of a black baby in handcuffs. An athletic department source said the group was a joke and had no serious purpose. Junior linebacker Clay Matthews created the group, "White Nation," which featured a graphic with the caption, "arrest black babies before they become criminals." Teammates David Buehler, Brian Cushing, Dan Deckas and Dallas Sartz joined the group. "This group is not for the faint of heart," read the group's description. "All members are athletes of Caucasion (sic) descent. DISCLAIMER: In no way are the following memebers (sic) intolerant of others, we are just doing our duty of protecting the Arian (sic) brotherhood." An athletic department source who wished to remain anonymous said the group was a joke and had no serious purpose. The "joke" began when a black football player nicknamed some of his teammates "White Nation," the source said. Stefanie Gopaul, a freshman majoring in psychology, discovered the group through her Facebook friendship with Sartz and Cushing and sent private messages to both, expressing her concern. "Dallas Sartz said that White Nation is a joke on the team and that he's not like that," Gopaul said. "I was still really upset about it." Gopaul created the Facebook group, " Clay Matthews (USC football player) expresses anti-black sentiment," and invited all of her Facebook friends to join. "I honestly thought (Sartz and Cushing) were taking me as a joke," Gopaul said. "I posted the group so that they would know that (the White Nation group) is inappropriate." The group received a strong response, at one time having as many as 90 members, and students expressed their outrage on the group message board and in personal messages to Gopaul. "I received some very upset comments," Gopaul said. "A high school student wrote to me and said he wanted to go to 'SC next year and that he was glad I created the group and that it made him look at the school differently." Football player Sedrick Ellis sent Gopaul a message explaining that "White Nation" is an inside joke on the team and that Matthews is not racist. "My goal was that the picture and group be taken down," Gopaul said. "Even though you have this inside joke, it shouldn't be brought to Facebook because people will see it who aren't in on it." Gopaul said she then received a message from Matthews. "At first, Clay Matthews sounded a bit upset with me, and understandably so," Gopaul said. "But he was very nice in his second letter once I explained my intentions and actions to him." Matthews said that another person posted the picture, and he was unsure of how to delete the group, Gopaul said. He also wrote a formal apology to the members of "Clay Matthews (USC football player) expresses anti-black sentiment." "He told us that he immediately went online to explain it and apologize, and to say this is not indicative of his or the team's attitude," said Tim Tessalone, director of sports information. "We talked to him about how something done without serious intent could be perceived in a negative light and he agreed; he felt badly for his poor judgment, and he quickly moved to correct it." A source from the athletic department said Matthew's apology said he was sorry, and that the group was not serious and had no racist intent. He also said his roommate and best friend are black and said that it was poor judgment on his part to create the group. "As the creator of a group, it's your responsibility to watch what is posted on there," Gopaul said. "I feel like he's at least a lot more aware of what is and isn't OK." Gopaul agreed to delete her group within two days of Matthew's apology on Feb. 14. "I really do believe that it was a joke," Gopaul said. "Racial tension is already here at 'SC, and a lot of people were upset that he wasn't punished. I was never out to punish him, but a lot of students who saw the group wanted that." Dinah Manning, a former member of the "Clay Matthews" group and a junior majoring in philosophy, said football players should be mindful of their status as public figures. "The football players are ambassadors of our university," Manning said. "It is offensive that they could blindly espouse hateful language and demeaning images. If it was meant to be a joke, it was careless and in bad taste." When Matthews left the "White Nation" Facebook group, he gave up his ability to delete the group; an administrator must manually remove each member to delete the group. Matthew James Hodgson, a senior from Occidental College, now runs the group and said he plans on using the group to educate people about the ignorance of racism. "(My friends and I joined) because we did not agree with the white supremacist sentiment of the group," Hodgson said. "We wanted to make the other people feel uncomfortable. I assumed control of the group with the intention to continue this process and make it known that this kind of group is unacceptable." The membership includes three Occidental students and five other members from regional or high school networks nationwide. No USC students remain in the group. "I didn't expect Facebook to have the impact it had," Gopaul said. "I honestly just wanted people at USC to see the (White Nation) group. … I knew if I used Facebook, people would at least see it." Buehler, Cushing, Deckas, Ellis, Matthews and Sartz all declined to comment for this article.