Two fans at Saturday’s Wisconsin-Nebraska game in Madison, Wis., enacted a scene that many found offensive, both in the stadium and through images that circulated online. One fan wore a Donald Trump mask and held a noose around the neck of the other fan, who was wearing a Barack Obama mask and a prison-striped outfit.
The fan wearing the Obama mask apparently also had one of Hillary Clinton, which was worn as the pair walked up the steps at Camp Randall Stadium, with the noose still in place. That fan also carried a sign objecting to Clinton’s “What difference, at this point, does it make?” comment during congressional hearings on Benghazi in 2013.
The fans were not removed from the game, but they were asked to remove the noose. Officials from both the Wisconsin football program and the campus police noted online that the fans had been engaged in “free speech.”
The school’s Twitter account described the scene of a lynching of the country’s president as “not cool at all,” and it said, “An image of a noose in our stadium is unacceptable.”
Campus police chief Sue Riseling tweeted that the fans were exercising their First Amendment rights, even though it was not in “good taste.” However, some online observers thought that the scene was not so much an exercise of free speech but an act of “hate speech.”
The university released a statement Saturday emphasizing that an individual at the game had been asked to remove “the offensive components” of “a highly insensitive and offensive costume” and that he had “complied” but had been exercising free speech. “UW-Madison is dedicated to promoting a campus environment where all people feel valued, safe and able to thrive,” the school said. “To that end, the university continues to encourage all of our community members to engage in discussion over vital issues in ways that promote greater understanding and respect for all persons.”