President Donald Trump was among the thousands of fans in Tuscaloosa watching the “Game of the Century II” between LSU and Alabama on Saturday.
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump were met with mostly cheers from the crowd as his presence was announced before the highly anticipated matchup began.
This warm welcome stands in stark contrast to his reception at two other sporting events Trump attended in the past two weeks. Trump attended Game Five of the World Series between the Washington Nationals and the Houston Astros in Washington, D.C., on Oct 27. When he was recognized during the game, the crowd booed and broke out into chants of “lock him up.”
A few days later, Trump traveled to Madison Square Garden in New York and became the first sitting president to attend an Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts match. Trump, along with sons Donald Jr. and Eric, were greeted with both boos and cheers at the event.
Political science and mass communication sophomore Mary Reggie believed Trump attended the LSU-Alabama game for positive publicity.
“I think Trump needed a win in regards to his public opinion after the bad reactions he received at the World Series and the UFC fight,” Reggie said. “Alabama and Louisiana are both deep red states, so he was going to receive a positive reaction. It was guaranteed the stadium would erupt in cheers for him.”
Business and psychology junior Mignon Huckabay, who attended the game in Tuscaloosa, said fans were even more enthusiastic about the LSU-Alabama matchup because of the president’s attendance.
“Everyone was pretty excited,” Huckabay said. “People were walking up and down the street in Tuscaloosa selling Trump gear, and people were taking pictures with flags.”
Additional fervor was caused when protesters brought out the “Baby Trump” balloon, a 20-foot tall inflated caricature of the president, and set it up in a park near Bryant-Denny stadium. The balloon was slashed later that night.
Police later identified the suspect as 32-year-old Hoyt Hutchinson of Tuscaloosa, according to The Washington Post. He was charged with first-degree criminal mischief, a felony, and was later released on a $2,500 bond.
Huchinson created a GoFundMe for himself on Saturday, under the name of “Restitutions for Baby Trump Stabber,” to pay off legal fees and restitutions. Under the description Hutchinson stated, “Hoyt made sure our beloved president didn’t have to see this disrespectful balloon on the streets of Ttown today!!”
As of Sunday, the page had raised more than $30,000, with over 1,000 donors. In a comment on the page, Hutchinson said he plans to donate all leftover funds to Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign.
Trump’s attendance at the game made him the second sitting U.S. president to attend an LSU football game, the first being President William Howard Taft, who attended the LSU-Sewanee game in New Orleans in 1909.
“Regardless on how I feel about Trump politically, I think it’s cool to have the president of the United States at the LSU game,” Reggie said. “I appreciate his involvement in a big part of American culture.”
Huckabay also thought Trump’s attendance was significant.
“I thought it was pretty cool because some of my friends in the stadium were so close and were sending me videos of how close they were,” Huckabay said. “The president of the United States was in the same town as us watching our team play. That’s pretty cool.”