Surrounded by whites, some smiling while others looked indifferent, an unidentified man dressed in a Halloween costume as President Barack Obama with a noose around his neck attended the University of Wisconsin and University of Nebraska football game on Saturday, Oct. 29 in Madison, Wisc.
Camp Randall Stadium staff told the person to remove the costume’s noose, which symbolized white terrorist lynching of blacks, after some the spectators protested on social media. The costumed man removed the noose but was allowed to continue watching the game, one played by many African- American football players.
University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank said in a statement issued Sunday, Oct.30, that once the noose was removed, “the costume fell within the stadium’s costume policies.”
Blank explained that wearing the costume without the noose was a free speech issue.
“I believe our university must resist the desire to outlaw forms of speech and political dissent with which we disagree,” Blank said.
Some University of Wisconsin alumni, however, criticized Blank’s response, calling the costume hate speech and saying that the costume wearer should have been ordered to leave the stadium. Eventually, he left on his own volition.
One response on Twitter called the statement from the university ‘appallingly misguided’ and stressed that ‘hate speech is not protected as free speech.’
Alumni called on the school to revisit the in-stadium costume policy and consider a stronger response in the future such as revoking the person’s season tickets or permanently banning offenders from the stadium.