It was a joke.
And not even an original one at that.
But moments after North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye uttered, “people that go to (N.C.) State just can’t get into Carolina,” on Tuesday at his weekly media session previewing Saturday’s game against Notre Dame, the backpedaling began.
Maye, head coach Mack Brown and Jeremy Sharpe, UNC’s spokesperson for football, decided an apology was needed. And Maye did just that on his Twitter account Tuesday night.
“He’s young and I didn’t want him to get burned so he didn’t want to talk to the media ever again,” Brown said. “And so I just felt like that, modern day, if something’s not what we want it to be as a family and North Carolina football, that’s not who we are, then let’s fix it and let’s move forward.”
As Brown put it on Wednesday, “you can’t be cute anymore,” because social media in large part has killed playful banter. Brown said there’s not much room for jokes because people are looking for something to be mad about.
Brown said Maye apologized to him again Wednesday morning after practice saying that he didn’t want to be a distraction.
“I said, I know you’re 18/19 years old, have fun, but always be very respectful of everybody, especially your neighbors,” Brown said. “N.C. State’s got a great university and again, it was fun. It was a young guy trying to cut up and enjoy you all and be relaxed before a big game and and it just didn’t come across right.”
Maye made the comment during the final question of a 10-minute session with media on Tuesday at UNC’s football offices when he was asked about Sam Howell’s influence on him flipping his commitment from Alabama to Carolina in high school.
“I didn’t want to miss out on the home state, seeing Sam being a hometown kid too,” Maye said. “You know, whether you want to admit it or not, growing up in Carolina, you’re gonna be a Carolina fan. Some people may say (N.C.) State, but really people that go to State just can’t get into Carolina. So at the end of the day you know, playing for Carolina’s (something) a lot of people from North Carolina want to do, so I didn’t want to miss out on that.”
In his apology the redshirt freshman from Huntersville reiterated that he meant it as a joke, but said that it was inappropriate. He also added that he “needed to do a better job representing our program and this University.”
It wasn’t that long ago Howell was also providing a jab to the rival Wolfpack. N.C. State’s hype video before its game with Carolina in 2020 posed the question, ‘What’s a ram to a wolf?’ After Carolina’s 48-21 win at Kenan Stadium, Howell was asked about it.
“We don’t really care about them, that’s more for them just to give them some false confidence before the game,” Howell said. “…We know what a ram is to a wolf, I think we saw it out there today. It could have been a lot worse than it was so I’m not going to say anything else about that.”
Howell’s remarks were considered all in the game. He didn’t issue an apology later either.
Brown told Maye the same thing he tells young coaches he advises: “Sometimes it’s not what you say or what you mean. It’s what they hear. And it may not be your point at all.”
“You got a lot of people out there that are looking for something to get mad at, and ‘Oh my gosh, I got my tweet here, I can get mad about this,’” Brown said. “…So I told him, I love you. I appreciate you. I’m glad you represent us. I want you to keep having fun, but you’ve got to be very, very respectful of people with your fun. You can’t cross the line and (Tuesday) night, it was a joke, but (for) the people that wanted to be angry, it crossed the line.”
Carolina doesn’t play N.C. State until Nov. 25 in the regular season finale for both teams.