UW: Obama ‘lynching’ protected by First Amendment

It’s been eight years since the United States elected a black president, and some people are still depicting him in a lynching.

This time, it’s fans at last weekend’s University of Wisconsin game against Nebraska.

Madison.com reports today that the fans who thought it funny were asked to remove the noose, which they did.

“Stadium staff monitored the fan to ensure that he did not put the noose back on and was prepared to remove him if he did,” UW-Madison spokeswoman Meredith McGlone said.

But the Wisconsin State Journal says its photos show the noose was back on by the third quarter and the stadium officials did nothing.

Responding to that criticism Sunday, Chancellor Rebecca Blank wrote in a statement that “once the noose was removed, the decision was made that the remainder of the costume fell within the stadium’s costume policies.”

Blank and campus officials have said the fans who wore the costume were not ejected because their display was protected by the First Amendment.

“The costume, while repugnant and counter to the values of the university and athletic department, was an exercise of the individual’s right to free speech,” read a UW-Madison statement Saturday night.

UW-Madison professor and First Amendment expert Donald Downs said there is not a definitive answer to whether UW had the authority to kick the fans out, since universities are allowed to place some restrictions on speech in settings such as a football game. At issue is whether the use of a noose violates UW’s conduct rules for fans at Camp Randall, Downs said.

“This is awful, this is not who we are,’” said Professor Christy Clark-Pujara, who teaches about the history of lynching in the UW-Madison African-American studies department.