It's an image that could haunt University of Wisconsin Athletics for years. At Saturday night's football game between the Badgers and Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium, a fan was spotted wearing a President Obama mask in a prison jumpsuit with a noose around his neck:
Nobody around the "fan" seemed particularly upset by the costume. They did not call stadium security to have the man removed or at least made to take off the noose. The costume didn't become an issue until someone along the sidelines took a picture of the man and posted it on social media. Eventually, UW's twitter account manager became aware of the situation--got information on where the fan was seated--and alerted stadium security.
The fan was told to remove the noose--but was allowed to stay in the stadium and keep on the Obama mask. An initial statement from the school released via social media that night apologized for the incident and claimed that the costume "met the standards" for what would be allowed into the stadium that night.
The second statement from the school--released the next day--actually shocked me. Chancellor Becky Blank actually cited the fan's right to "First Amendment right to free expression"--which today's easily-offended generation usually refuses to tolerate (Camp Randall Stadium apparently is NOT a "safe zone"). That got minority-student groups and faculty upset--because the first and second statements didn't "acknowledge the history of lynching and the effect on African-Americans"--forcing both Blank and Athletic Director Barry Alvarez to issue a third, joint statement on Tuesday mentioning lynching and promising to "review stadium policies".
I'd like to explain what the guy in the noose may have been thinking--but the rest of his get-up was really confusing. He also had a giant Hillary Clinton cardboard face over his face and a sign listing her alleged illegal offenses and BERNIE 2016--but then he was being led around by a guy in a giant cardboard cutout face of Donald Trump saying "you're fired".
So whatever his First Amendment protected expression was that night, we may never know.
Meanwhile, I'm sure the folks in the UW Athletic Department are in full crisis mode trying to reassure their African-American student-athletes that Madison is still a decent place to study and play. Knowing the down-and-dirty tactics used on the recruiting trail, top-notch high school athletes will be seeing plenty of "Noose Guy" on their social media feeds.