A wild Indian tiger walks away from a meal.

This article was written by a student of ENGL 3330: Writing for the News Media, which is taught by Mike Pulley.

During the first quarter of the 2020 College Football Playoff National Championship Dion Grossnickle noticed the weathered look of Clemson’s mascot.

On social media, he deemed the mascot’s outfit worthy of the “clearance rack from TG&Y in 1981.” As a Louisiana native and loyal LSU fan, Grossnickle launched a satirical GoFundMe for Clemson Athletics in hopes of purchasing a new and improved suit for the tiger for future games. 

“To be honest, I thought the post on my Facebook page would be seen by a handful of my friends that happen to be LSU fans,” Grossnickle wrote on the GoFundMe page. “Little did I know that the post would be seen by millions upon millions of people and raise a few thousand dollars.”

Grossnickle’s post gained traction and began to spread via social media, pulling far beyond his expectations and plausible donors. Clemson and LSU fans began pouring money into the fund, pushing it to a final standing of $3,161, more than triple its $1,000 goal, according to Grossnickle’s GoFundMe.

“I feared that my joke would make many Clemson fans extremely upset,” Grossnickle said on his post, discovering the fund’s growth at halftime. “That was my biggest concern as I am a very big Clemson football fan and highly respect their football program as well as their players.”

Grossnickle was pleased by the good-spirited nature of the South Carolinian tigers, according to his post. He called the Clemson Tigers “incredible” and was glad there’s still room left in the world for satire. 

Raising much more money than expected and knowing what the fund was for, Grossnickle eventually spoke to Clemson Athletics, seeking suggestions for what to do with his newly-monetized joke. Clemson Athletics cheerfully deferred him to Tigers United University Consortium, an organization established by Clemson President James Clements to preserve the wild tiger population across the globe, according to Tigers United.

Both LSU and Clemson fall into the organization’s purview– along with Auburn University and the University of Missouri –all sporting tigers as their mascots. 

“The National Championship pitted tiger against tiger,” said Rachelle Beckner, Tigers United’s project coordinator and a lecturer in Clemson’s Department of Communication. “But off the field, the two universities are undivided in their mission to save their mascot.”

To the organization and its benefactors, Grossnickle has become something of a folk-hero. 

“We are grateful to Dion for using this platform for good to bring national attention to the serious issue of our declining population,” said Dr. Brett A. Wright, the Tigers United Director, in the organization’s release. “One of our primary goals has been to engage the fan bases of each university and make them aware of this issue and join us to save our mascot. Dion has helped us bring this issue to their attention.” 

The world’s wild tiger population now stands at less than 4,000, according to Tigers United.

With the help of Grossnickle and others, Tigers United hopes these numbers will climb and the endangered species gets restored to its ecosystems. The four-university consortium has a goal of doubling the wild tiger population by 2022, just in time for the Chinese calendar’s next Year of the Tiger, according to a release. They’re now $3,161 closer. As of Jan. 15, Grossnickle’s page had been shared 175.8k times.

“Social media plays such a large part of our lives,” said Grossnickle, in Tigers United’s release. “The opportunity to turn a social media comic relief into something that is meaningful is a gift from God. ... I have learned that social media can be used as a platform for much more than political beliefs, selfies, and self-gratification. The power … can bring the nation to its knees or lift the world up with a click of a button.”

You can support wild tigers or learn more at www.tigersunited.org.

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