Billboards prompt critical response

Published Jan. 9, 2011 12:00 a.m. EST

Watch out. The Little Sisters of the Poor have had all they can take, and they can’t take any more.

The charitable organization is objecting to the flippant use of its name, most recently in billboards celebrating TCU’s win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, which started showing up near the Ohio State campus.

A group of TCU alumni purchased eight digital billboards that read "Congratulations to TCU for their BCS Rose Bowl Victory — Little Sisters of the Poor." The signature line is a reference to a statement made by OSU President E. Gordon Gee, who memorably proclaimed on Nov. 24 that the Horned Frogs don't deserve to be in the national title hunt because they played "the Little Sisters of the Poor," unlike the Buckeyes, who played what Gee termed "a murderer's row" of teams in the Big Ten.

But the joke finally elicited a response from the charitable organization.


"For many years sports writers have compared poor teams to our Congregation, saying that this or that team cannot even beat the Little Sisters of the Poor," Sister Constance said in a statement on their website. "We do not know where this comparison originated. In general we have taken the joke in stride — mostly ignoring it. When Ohio State President Gordon Gee made his now infamous remarks … we tried to stay above the fray.

"This week billboards have appeared across Columbus, Ohio, congratulating TCU on their victory in the Rose Bowl. The messages are signed ‘The Little Sisters of the Poor.’ Because we have begun to receive inquiries asking if we are responsible for them, we wish to state unequivocally that we had nothing to do with these billboards, just as we had nothing to do with President Gee’s comments, or with the origins of the Little Sisters of the Poor joke in the first place.

“Our lives are devoted to the care of the elderly poor. We do not generally watch football or any other sporting events. We could say that football is ‘out of our league.’ We feel that the joke has gone far enough. We do not condone the use of our name by others for this or any other purpose and we hope that this inappropriate use of our name will stop.”