The school says it wants its athletes to be community leaders, but is that really true?
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Athletic departments across the country regularly tout their players as important community leaders. Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge is no different. Yes, there is a lot of great work done by college athletes, but schools love to publicize that work because of the public relations benefit to the university. But this week, LSU acknowledged that there’s a limit to the type of community leadership they’ll support from their athletes.
On Wednesday, when the Justice Department announced there’d be no charges filed against the police officers who shot and killed 37-year-old Baton Rouge resident Alton Sterling, the LSU athletics department sent its more than 350 players across all sports a note instructing them to not wear any school logos if they planned to protest that decision. If the players wanted to show themselves as community leaders on the topic of policing in America, the school didn’t want to be associated with it.
According to The Advocate, LSU senior associate athletics director Miriam Segar sent the email, offering counseling to the students in the wake of the decision and writing that the department would support the athletes, but offered a caveat to that support.
“We know this is a subject that many of you care deeply about and we respect and support your right to speak publicly and express your opinions,” the email reads. “If you choose to express your opinion on this issue, including on social media, we ask that you not wear LSU gear or use LSU branding”
After Sterling was shot in Baton Rouge last July, athletes joined in on the protests, including the Tigers’ star running back Leonard Fournette, who tweeted a picture of himself wearing a t-shirt with Sterling’s face on it.
The email reminds players that the relationship with LSU is mostly a marriage of convenience, namely what’s convenient for the university, not for the students. The school is perfectly happy to slap its logo on these unpaid athletes when the school stands a chance to make money or score an easy PR win, but when it comes to the students taking a leadership role in matters without easy answers, the university would prefer they didn’t. It’s ok for the school to use the likeness of their players for the university’s benefit, but the players can’t use the school’s branding for theirs.