A group of Louisiana State University football fans whose admiration for the Tigers is second only to their love for Jesus is outraged after the school digitally erased the tiny crosses they painted on their bare upper chests at a recent football game.
LSU officials sent out a photo of The Painted Posse, Christian students who paint their bodies with LSU school colors and small crosses for home games, in an email about the LSU game against South Carolina on Oct. 13. The students were shocked to see the photo, which appeared to be otherwise untouched, in the newsletter that went out following the Tigers' 23-21 win over the then-No. 3 Gamecocks. The Tigers are now 7-1 for the season.
“I was a bit surprised, because our pictures get used so frequently, and the cross had never been edited before,” Posse member Cameron Cooke told CampusReform.org. “The cross painting is important to me because it represents who I am as a Christ follower.
“And it reminds me who I need to act like in Death Valley,” Cooke added, referring to Tiger Stadium's nickname.
School spokesman Herb Vincent told the site the school altered the image to prevent other students from being offended by the weekly Geaux-Mail newsletter.
"We don't want to imply we are making any religious or political statements, so we air-brushed it out," the school said in a statement. "Only one of the students, who didn't appreciate it, actually contacted us about it. So next time, we'll just choose a different photo."
Going forward, the school plans to steer clear of photos with religious overtones when it sends out emails promoting athletics.
"It was just a straight sports communications message, no politics involved, no religion," Vincent said.
"We're going to be there game in, game out. We love Christ; we love LSU."
- Joel D'Aubin, LSU's "Painted Posse"
The Painted Posse is a group of devout Tigers fans who also are devout Christians. They honor both passions every Saturday by donning full body paint, which includes a cross above their hearts.
"I knew from the second I was old enough to know that I was going to LSU," Joel D'Aubin told the NBC affiliate in Baton Rouge. "And we all have a passion for LSU football and for Christ. Just being able to be that example every single Saturday is an awesome experience."
The group was formed in 2003 and has become a fixture at LSU home games, even shown on national TV game broadcasts, on ESPN and in Sports Illustrated.
"As much fun as that is," Cooke said of the attention, "it's more fun to see the fact that our savior is represented in the cross."
But the Posse says it is not angry at LSU, and does not want to cause any harm.
"We're going to be there game in, game out," D'Aubin said. "We love Christ; we love LSU. No, we don't want anything."
LSU survived a tough road game on Saturday, defeating Texas A&M 24-19. But fans of the sixth-ranked Tigers may be praying hard before this Saturday's matchup with No. 1 Alabama. On the Painted Posse's Facebook page, Tiger fan Paula Jones Bergeron urged fellow LSU backers to send a statement to the school for the big showdown.
"I'm on a mission and need everyone's help," Bergeron wrote. "The Alabama game is Nov. 3 and everyone needs to wear a purple or black shirt and wear a large cross, a shirt with a cross on it or face paint a cross on your face. The media will be everywhere and my goal is to have a campus of crosses."