Following a difficult Republican electoral loss in Kentucky, President Donald Trump will seek to end the week on a high today by attending the Alabama-LSU college football rivalry game.
After drowning in a chorus of boos at Game 5 of the World Series and then UFC 244, Trump will visit Bryant-Denny Stadium to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the LSU Tigers this afternoon.
It’s a huge game. Both teams are undefeated, and they rank No. 2 and No. 3 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. The top-ranked team, Ohio State, might have seen its CFP hopes vanish following the suspension of Chase Young, heightening the stakes even further.
The president will expect a better reaction from the crowd than he received at the World Series – he won Alabama in the 2016 presidential election by 28 percentage points. However, even this visit to “Trump Country” won’t be without controversy.
Worried that “disruptive” students would protest the president, the University of Alabama’s Student Government Association (SGA) warned that fans who failed to toe the university line would face repercussions – including losing access to season tickets.
Any organizations that engage in disruptive behaviour during the game will be removed from block seating instantly for the remainder of the season.
Following the expected backlash, SGA walked back its threat, but that only added to the confusion.
By disruptive behavior, we are asking students to be respectful to all students and staff and avoid altercations.
My email has nothing do with anyone’s First Amendment rights and I am sorry for any confusion. Please express yourself and especially your pride for the Tide.
By trying to create understanding, the SGA created more misunderstanding. Apparently, students will now be free to express themselves at the game, but they’ll also need to act respectfully and avoid altercations. Whatever that means.
But if fans have the right to express themselves freely, then they’re also allowed to be disrespectful. It’s not respectful to boo the president, but that doesn’t mean that students should be barred from engaging in free speech – especially at a public university.
What’s really going on is a student government body attempting to ensure everything goes smoothly for the big presidential visit. That’s understandable – Trump’s presence is already doomed to cause massive traffic and long delays for fans entering the stadium. The last things they want to hear at kickoff are fans screaming “Boo!” and “Lock him up!” rather than “Roll Tide!”
Unfortunately, the university’s mishandling of the situation created a predicament in which not booing Trump is just as much of a political statement as booing him.
Regardless of what you think about Trump, U.S. citizens have the right to say what they feel about him – just like any other politician they don’t like. It shouldn’t matter if this opinion is expressed at the dinner table, in a classroom, or at a college football rivalry game.
Alabama students have a right to boo – or cheer – President Trump, and protestors on both sides of the aisle can defend free speech by exercising that right today when the Crimson Tide take the field against the LSU Tigers.