<
>

Wisconsin changes venue policies in response to noose costume

MADISON, Wis. -- University of Wisconsin athletics department officials announced changes Wednesday night to the school's carry-in and ticket policies for home sporting events, beginning this weekend. The decision comes in response to an Oct. 29 home football game in which two people were involved with a Halloween costume depicting President Barack Obama in a noose.

Items prohibited in athletics facilities will now include nooses and ropes, which will be treated as weapons that constitute a threat to safety, as will replicas of weapons. The changes were made following meetings between athletics department staffers and several community leaders.

"Any person who engages in violent, threatening, abusive or otherwise disorderly conduct which tends to provoke a disturbance or incite violence will be ejected from our events," a statement read. "Threats include statements, actions and behaviors that could reasonably be foreseen as having a purpose to inflict physical harm, even if the person making the threat doesn't have the ability to carry out the threat. Disorderly conduct does not require that a disruption actually occur. Any spectator carrying a prohibited item may be refused admittance or may be ejected from the venue."

On Monday, Wisconsin officials indefinitely revoked the season tickets of the two people involved in the Obama costume. One man wore masks of Obama and Hillary Clinton, with a noose around their necks. The other wore a Donald Trump mask and led the first man around by the noose. Later Monday night, more than 20 of the Wisconsin football team's black players, as well as basketball star Nigel Hayes and several other student-athletes, posted a coordinated statement demanding change in racial inequalities on campus, citing the incident as "yet another blow and reminder that there are people in this community that may not value diverse populations."

"What happened at Camp Randall two weeks ago goes against everything we stand for," Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. "I am very pleased that we all were able to work together to improve our policies. I greatly appreciate the collaborative spirit of our meetings with leaders in our community. It is great to be able to talk, and even more satisfying that we took action."

The university was heavily criticized for its handling of the situation less than two weeks ago, when authorities asked a man to remove the noose from his costume but allowed him to remain for the rest of the game. The school later noted that the costume no longer violated rules and was protected by free speech. However, other fans said the man put the noose back on later in the game.

"This policy change is an important step in ensuring that our sporting events are free from offensive conduct that has the potential to create a disturbance," University of Wisconsin-Madison chancellor Rebecca Blank said in the statement. "I have asked the Office of Legal Affairs to work closely with the Division of Athletics in the next several weeks to review facilities use and other policies to clarify conduct rules at all of our sports facilities. We fully intend to include campus and community stakeholders in that process, as well."

Wisconsin will host five home athletic events this weekend, including Saturday's homecoming football game against Illinois.