Alabama warns student groups not to engage in 'disruptive behavior' during Trump visit

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 21: A general view of the exterior of the stadium following a game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama defeated Southern Miss 49-7. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The University of Alabama’s Student Government Association sent out a letter to student groups warning of consequences if any organizations “engage in disruptive behavior” during Saturday’s game between LSU and Alabama — a game that is slated to be attended by President Donald Trump.

A copy of the letter has been circulating on social media and is from vice president of student affairs Jason Rothfarb, according to The letter warns its recipients that those who engage “disruptive behavior” will be “removed from block seating instantly for the remainder of the season.”

Block seating at Bryant-Denny Stadium is typically reserved for student organizations like sororities, fraternities and clubs. That warning — which has not been sent prior to any other Alabama game this season, per — may fall on deaf ears considering there is only one other home game for Alabama this season: Nov. 23 vs. mighty Western Carolina.

The letter reminded its recipients of the “increase in security” that will be present outside of the stadium in anticipation of the president’s arrival. There will also be “additional security” present in the student section during the game, the letter says.

Below is Rothfarb’s letter:

Due to an increase in security outside of the stadium, we anticipate that it will take an hour or more to get into the stadium. Consequently, it is imperative to fill your sections earlier than normal. We ask that all members of your respective organizations enter the stadium no later than 12:30 p.m. for this weekend’s game and, as always, refrain from entering with any illegal items.

Additional security will also be in the student section during the game. Any organizations that engage in disruptive behavior during the game will be removed from block seating for the remainder of the season.

‘Nothing to do with First Amendment rights’

Some wondered if Rothfarb’s letter was an effort to curb any potential protests that could arise from the president’s presence. In a follow-up email, he claimed that was a misinterpretation and that his letter had “nothing to do with anyone’s First Amendment rights.”

Some have misinterpreted my comment regarding “disruptive behavior.” As with other games this season, Organization’s Block Seating locations will be clearly marked, but at certain times, other students can and should have access to open seats. By disruptive behavior, we are asking students to be respectful to all students and staff and avoid altercations. My email has nothing do with anyone’s First Amendment rights and I am sorry for any confusion. Please express yourself and especially your pride for the Tide.

Later, the Alabama SGA released a statement affirming “its belief in free speech and the rights of all students to express their opinions.”

The gates at Bryant-Denny Stadium are scheduled to open at 11:30 a.m. local time — three hours before the 2:30 p.m. CT start time. Rothfarb is encouraging student groups to reach their seats two hours before the game begins due to the increased security presence.

The LSU-Alabama game in Tuscaloosa will be the third sporting event attended by President Trump in recent weeks. Trump watched Game 5 of the World Series in Washington D.C. and later attended UFC 244 in New York City.

Saturday’s game will be the fourth college football game Trump attends during his presidency. He has twice attended the annual Army-Navy game — in 2016 and 2018 — and was also in Atlanta for the 2017 College Football Playoff title game between Alabama and Georgia.

As it would with any president, Trump’s presence that night caused an array of delays for fans trying to enter Mercedes-Benz Stadium on a rain-soaked night in Atlanta. One gate was even shut down for 45 minutes to accommodate the president’s arrival.

It would not be a surprise to see similar delays in Alabama on Saturday.

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